Gunnar Henderson’s grand slam dooms Red Sox in 6-1 loss to Orioles

Things could have gone so much differently if Kutter Crawford hadn’t walked the No. 9 hitter.

With the game tied and two outs in the bottom of the second, the Red Sox starter walked James McCann to load the bases. Rather than escape the jam with minimal damage, Crawford instead found himself facing down Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson, and the reigning American League Rookie of the Year didn’t let the opportunity slip away.

Henderson’s grand slam put the Orioles firmly in control, spoiling what could have been a strong outing for Crawford in Boston’s 6-1 loss. The right-hander only allowed four hits and two walks over six innings while striking out five, but he was also charged with five runs as he fell to 2-4 on the season.

“The walk to McCann, that’s the one, then we’re facing one of the best hitters in the big leagues,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said afterwards. “Besides that overall solid, right? But that inning just got away from us and they did what they do.”

Much like on Tuesday night, the Red Sox scored first thanks in part to some sloppy play by the Orioles. Connor Wong reached on a single, took second on a fielding error and then third on a botched pickoff attempt before finally scoring on a Dominic Smith fielder’s choice.

But like on Tuesday the Orioles responded immediately, and this time the Red Sox didn’t have an answer of their own.

Baltimore got the first two men on base to start the second, and though Crawford drew a pair of flyouts he also surrendered an RBI single to Ramon Urias, tying the game at 1-1.

That brought up McCann, and after Crawford walked him on five pitches to load the bases, Henderson only needed to see two pitches before he hammered his game-breaking grand slam. The home run was Henderson’s 18th of the season, moving him into a tie with Houston’s Kyle Tucker for most in MLB.

Crawford largely kept the Orioles in check from there, but the Red Sox bats didn’t have much of an answer for Baltimore ace Corbin Burnes. He allowed the one unearned run over seven innings while allowing three hits and three walks and while striking out five over 108 pitches.

Cora said afterwards he was happy they were able to get Burnes’ pitch count up as high as they did, but given the score it didn’t wind up making a difference.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the big leagues,” Cora said. “He is who he is, and those games you have to grind with him. What was it (108) pitches? I think the lead gave them the freedom to use him that long but for some young guys that we have we put good at bats.”

Baltimore added an additional insurance run in the bottom of the seventh when Urias hit a solo home run off Chase Anderson.

With the loss Boston drops the three-game series and falls back to .500 at 28-28 overall. The Red Sox are now 2-4 with consecutive series losses over the past week against the Milwaukee Brewers and Orioles, both top playoff contenders. As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe noted, the Red Sox are also now 0-7 in series against teams that are at least five games over .500 and are 5-16 in those games.

The club will get a bit of a break this weekend as it opens a four-game set against the Detroit Tigers, who entered tonight fourth in the AL Central at 26-27 overall, but after that they’ll have a date with the powerhouse Atlanta Braves (31-21).

“I’m going to sound like Bill (Belichick) here, we’re on to the Tigers,” Cora said. “We’ve got to play good against the Tigers, that’s where we’re at, and we cannot look ahead. We know we have guys coming back and that’s in a few weeks or a month. We’ve got to grind with the people we have here.”

Nick Pivetta (2-3, 4.20) is scheduled to face Jack Flaherty (1-4, 3.84) in Thursday’s series opener, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at Fenway Park.

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