It was originally ruled no RBI, but everyone in Camden Yards knew it wouldn’t be long before the call was changed.
With one out in the top of the third and a man at third base, Rafael Devers grounded a soft chopper to shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who booted the ball and allowed both the runner to score and Devers to reach safely. Though the play was correctly ruled an error, it’s hard to imagine Henderson could have thrown the runner out at the plate.
Needless to say it wasn’t surprising when Devers was awarded his 100th RBI, a small consolation as what has otherwise been an incredibly disappointing season drew to a close.
The Red Sox wrapped up their second consecutive fifth place season with a 6-1 win over the postseason-bound Baltimore Orioles, who treated Sunday’s finale as a low-stakes tune-up for their coming playoff run. The Orioles used eight pitchers and committed three errors, and after the Red Sox took an early lead they broke the game open with a four-run top of the seventh to effectively put a bow on the 2023 season.
Both of Boston’s early runs came off Baltimore errors. Enmanuel Valdez scored the first after stealing third and advancing home after third baseman Jordan Westburg couldn’t handle the throw, and then Devers drove in Alex Verdugo the next at bat.
Though it’s often felt like a slog, Devers’ final offensive numbers still ranked among the best in the league. The third baseman batted .271 with 33 home runs, 100 RBI and a .851 OPS, marking the third time in his career he’s posted a 30-100 season.
Devers is one of only three Red Sox hitters to accomplish that feat at age 26 or under, the others being Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Jim Rice.
While the Orioles cycled between pitchers, pulling ace Kyle Bradish after two scoreless innings, Red Sox starter Tanner Houck delivered an impressive bounce back outing after last week’s calamitous start at Fenway Park. The right-hander carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth and ultimately allowed one hit and three walks over six shutout innings.
Houck’s outing nearly ended in disaster when he allowed runners on the corners and a fly ball to right field that Verdugo initially lost in the sun, but the outfielder was able to pick up the ball just in time and made a low basket catch to end the inning.
Had the ball fallen in at least one run would have scored and things could have easily snowballed, as has happened so often this season. Instead the Red Sox put up a quick four runs, getting two on a Reese McGuire grounder misplayed by Henderson and the last two on RBI singles by Trevor Story and Wilyer Abreu to make it 6-0.
Baltimore scored once in the eighth on an Adley Rutschman RBI single but otherwise never seriously threatened. Yet with a bye to the American League Divisional Series already in hand, the 101-win Orioles have bigger fish to fry.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, wrap up the season 78-84, the same record they finished with last year. Now after back-to-back last place finishes, a potentially transformative offseason awaits.
Cora not candidate for GM job
Since Chaim Bloom was fired, rumors have swirled that Red Sox manager Alex Cora might be a candidate to move up and become the new head of baseball operations. Even after Cora announced this week that he’ll be back in 2024, there was still speculation that a move to the front office might be possible.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Cora put the notion to rest.
“I’m not ready to do that,” Cora said, noting that he’s said as much to owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon. “If I felt like, yeah, I think I can do that job, I’d probably tell them, ‘Hey, I would like to be part of the candidates.’ But I’m not ready for that.”
Cora has expressed a desire to one day shift to a front office role, but for now he’ll return as Red Sox manager in 2024 and in the meantime will play a role in the club’s ongoing search for a new general manager.
Emotional start to NESN broadcast
The news of former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield’s death broke approximately 30 minutes before first pitch, right in the middle of NESN’s pregame show. Coming out of a commercial break NESN’s Tom Caron announced the tragic news and the remainder of the show was dedicated to the franchise legend.
Then, right before the game began, play-by-play man Dave O’Brien and color commentator Kevin Youkilis reacted to the news as well, with Youkilis delivering an emotional tribute to his former teammate and colleague.
“He was a great competitor when he took that mound, he was a great teammate and a great friend,” Youkilis said. “I had the luxury to play with him on the field, in the booth, and just glad I had the opportunity over the years to be alongside him. Just an amazing husband, father and community leader. He really enjoyed people, he really enjoyed being around people, and today we lost one of the good ones.”
A moment of silence in Wakefield’s honor was observed at Camden Yards during the pregame ceremonies.
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