Tomase: Orioles' free rein on basepaths is a bad omen for Red Sox


The walks were one thing. They can be written off as an anomaly. Corey Kluber and Chris Martin have spent their careers not walking anybody. That should improve.

But the stolen bases? That's a problem that could have lasting consequences for the 2023 Red Sox.

A key factor in Baltimore's 10-9 Opening Day victory on Thursday was its ability to run at will. The Orioles stole five bases in five chances, all without a throw.

Tomase: Bad only slightly outweighs good in non-disastrous Red Sox opener

They did it by using the pitch clock against the Red Sox, timing their jumps against Corey Kluber, Kaleb Ort, and especially Ryan Brasier to coincide with the final six or seven seconds of the clock, when each pitcher had committed to beginning his delivery.

That didn't leave enough time to vary tempo without potentially incurring a violation. All five thieves eventually scored, making those plays pivotal in what started as a blowout and ended as a one-run game.

"It's something we're going to have go back and look at the video on and just collectively have a better effort of holding the ball or mixing up timing and things like that," said catcher Reese McGuire. "With the clock, it's going to incentivize more guys to be aggressive on the basepaths and we saw that today. Moving forward, we're going to get better at that. But obviously it's important."

The Orioles particularly keyed in on Brasier, which qualifies as an advanced scouting win. Because the right-hander is slow to the plate to begin with, the Orioles knew that once the pitch clock reached six or seven seconds, they could go without hesitation. Some of their jumps were so large, the runners were three-quarters of the way to second before Brasier even threw. They stole three bases on his watch, and there was nothing McGuire could do.

"They've got a handful of guys in their lineup that run, whether it's a fast guy on the mound or not," McGuire said. "They're just always looking to be aggressive on the basepaths. If we are in that slower delivery range, then they're kind of licking their chops. It's something for us to be aware of and control a little bit better. It all starts with just trying to keep them off base. It starts with, get the guy out in the box and then you don't have to worry about it."

That's where the nine walks hurt, since two of the steals came off of free passes. Manager Alex Cora shrugged off some of the steals as situational, since the Red Sox generally don't throw down with runners on first and third.

Still, five steals is a bad omen when MLB has introduced rules from fewer pickoff throws to bigger bases that are meant to encourage thefts. The Red Sox belatedly threw over to keep Jorge Mateo close with Martin on the mound in the ninth, but all that kept Baltimore from recording a sixth stolen base was Cedric Mullins lining into a double play after Mateo had gotten yet another giant jump.

"We're going to have to figure out what's best," McGuire said. "If coming set and still having eight or nine, 10 seconds on the clock, maybe that's going to be better, because then we can hold the ball and then we control the clock.

"If we get the sign a little bit late, that's potentially incentivizing the runner to say the clock is running down, let's just try to time it up. That's something we'll adjust for."

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