BALTIMORE — Bobby Dalbec endured an 0-for-27 skid.
One that included 11 strikeouts. His last hit? April 27 vs. the Mets.
In the face of his struggles, his manager, Alex Cora, unwaveringly made the decision to stick by his rookie infielder, understanding that it only takes one to get Dalbec going. All Dalbec needed, Cora said, was a breaking ball he could pull. In the top of the third inning, Dalbec shattered his funk, finding that one hit up the middle off Orioles starter Matt Harvey. The Red Sox wouldn’t score that inning, but in the fourth inning with two outs the club blitzed Harvey for four runs.
The Sox finally brought across their first run on a Hunter Renfroe RBI single. Franchy Cordero elicited a walk, bringing Dalbec to the plate.
And an 0-2 Harvey offering, Dalbec finally got his hanging breaking pitch, obliterating a Harvey curveball into the misty dark sky in left field. It solidified a Sox 6-2 win at Camden Yards.
“You got to be patient with the player,” Cora said. “One of the things that I told you guys a week ago, if we don’t feel these guys can do the job, then we made a bad choice in spring training.”
Eduardo Rodriguez gave the Sox five solid innings. They were five tough innings for the lefthander, however, who yielded seven hits and 14 foul balls. The Orioles worked Rodriguez’s pitch count up to 91. Rodriguez yielded his only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Cedric Mullins doubled followed by an RBI single by Trey Mancini. Rodriguez is now 11-5 with a 3.28 ERA in his career vs. Orioles. He is 7-2, with a 2.76 ERA at Camden Yards. In nine straight games he’s pitched against the Orioles, the Red Sox have won.
Hirokazu Sawamura came into the game in place of Rodriguez in the sixth inning and immediately allowed a solo shot to Ryan Mountcastle that shrunk the Red Sox lead to 4-2.
Heading into the evening, the Red Sox have played .500 ball since their nine-game winning streak was snapped by the Twins last month. Cora said on numerous occasions that his team has to play better, while still acknowledging the success that his team has had in the midst of their inconsistent play over the last 20 games.
“At the end of the day, before this game we had the best record in baseball,” Cora said. “Not too many people thought we were going to be able to do that before the season.”
Yet Cora also acknowledged the improvement in the Orioles, an organization that has seen its struggles as of recent.
“I believe that they will be competitive this year. And they’re getting to the point that they’re going to be in the conversation of one of those teams in the division.”
Garrett Whitlock worked two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Meanwhile, the Sox’ offense added some much needed insurance behind a Christian Vázquez RBI single in the eighth that scored Rafael Devers and an RBI double by Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth that scored Dalbec.
The Sox collected just seven hits to the Orioles’ 11. Yet the time in which the Red Sox gathered their seven, most notably Dalbec’s blast, was the difference in this one.
“It all comes down to timing, seeing the ball. And it’s usually not a swing thing. I’ve never taken a bad swing when I saw the ball well, and I was on time. So I think you know, that learning curve, it’s huge,” Dalbec said.