BOSTON – After back-to-back solo homers by Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the sixth inning Wednesday night gave them a two-run lead, it appeared the Red Sox were on their way to their third consecutive win.
Instead, a full-scale meltdown by closer Joel Hanrahan in the ninth inning doomed them to an 8-5 loss to the Orioles.
Hanrahan, who recorded just two outs, faced seven batters and gave up five runs on three hits, including two home runs, and two walks. He also threw a two-out wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score, before surrendering a game-losing, three-run homer into the Monster Seats by Manny Machado.
“Probably trying to go a little too hard, trying to make things happen with my arm instead of trusting my mechanics," Hanrahan said after the game. "Sometimes you get in a tight situation, you just try and go harder. As athletes we tell ourselves to slow down and relax, and sometimes it’s not that easy.”
Manager John Farrell had some good things to say about Hanrahan's outing.
"[He] had very good stuff [and] looked to be on the verge of closing it out until [a two-out] base-on-balls [to No. 9 hitter Nolan Reimond," said Farrell.
Not everyone saw it that way, though.
“His slider was very inconsistent,” said one scout in attendance. “You could almost see in his face the meltdown coming. He struggled to get any consistency with either the fastball or the slider. The game sped up on him, which is what can happen at Fenway.”
Hanrahan came into the ninth with a 5-3 lead and, as he did Monday when he closed out the Opening Day victory, allowed a leadoff home run, this time to Chris Davis.
"[That’s] not how you want to start,” Hanrahan said ruefully.
He appeared to rebound, though, striking out Matt Wieters and retiring J.J. Hardy on a pop foul to third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
"[It] looked to me like he was making his way through the inning," said Farrell.
But Ryan Flaherty, who had struck out in his three previous at-bats in the game and was 0-for-17 for the season at that point, sliced a single into left field. Hanrahan then walked the next two batters, Reimold and Nate McLouth.
With Machado at the plate, Hanrahan uncorked a wild pitch to score pinch-runner Alexi Casilla. And with the 32nd and final pitch of his outing Hanrahan gave up a three-run homer to Machado.
As he walked off the field, he was met with a chorus of boos.
"I probably would have given the same reception, too,” Hanrahan said. “They stuck through a [43-minute] rain delay. They stuck it out and we had [those] big two home runs (to take the lead), and to lose the game that way, that’s not fun . . . it’s not how you want your first two games at home to go."
In five games, spanning 4 2/3 innings, this season, Hanrahan -- acquired in the offseason from the Pirates -- has allowed six runs on six hits and three walks with three home runs, a wild pitch, and four strikeouts, for an ERA of 11.57. But Farrell isn't considering any changes.
“He’s obviously our closer,” Farrell said. “I think coming over and learning this league and understanding that there’s power up and down the lineup . . . [he's learning that in] the American League, particularly . . . the American League East, location is key, particularly in these late-inning moments.”
And he's got time to learn those lessons.
"[This] is Game 8," said Hanrahan, "so we got a long season ahead of us."