"Like I said with Darren [O'Day] and Zach [Britton], pitching three days in a row in order to win those games [against Texas], I wasn't going to use them in one of these games," manager Buck Showalter of going with McFarland over the club's typical late-inning options. "Only if we were ahead."
That was a tall order for Baltimore, fresh off a four-game sweep of the Rangers, as Red Sox starter Jon Lester matched Gonzalez's eight innings and gave the O's offense fits all afternoon. The defeat, in front of 35,714 at Fenway Park, dropped the O's to 46-40 on the season.
Gonzalez tied a career-high with eight innings, holding Boston to just two singles after the first two frames in a dominant performance. Gonzalez, who gave up two runs (one earned), struck out six and threw 72 of 113 pitches for strikes, picking up his fourth quality start in as many tries against Boston.
"I told myself not to do too much, stay aggressive, down in the zone, especially against a team like this that has a good lineup," Gonzalez said. "We came up a little short. T.J.'s been throwing the ball really well. You can't do anything about that. It's baseball."
At 93 pitches to start the eighth, Gonzalez got into some one-out trouble by hitting Dustin Pedroia with a pitch and walking Mike Napoli. He got A.J. Pierzynski to pop out, his fourth of the day, but both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Gonzalez hunkered down, sending Xander Bogaerts down looking at strike three to keep the game tied at 2.
"That's the kind of Miggy we're going to need," Showalter said of Gonzalez, who turned in his best outing in four games since returning from the disabled list.
"He was solid. I thought he deserved a chance to finish off that eighth inning. He had some real low-duress innings. He was solid. Unfortunately, Lester was as good -- and we were fortunate to be in it. They gave us a couple runs. I thought everybody threw the ball well. Mac gave up a ground ball and a so-so bunt, at best, and a ball that broke the guy's bat in half. What are you going to do? I was real proud of the pitchers today, especially Miggy. But you're facing two pitchers there in this game who are, what, in the top seven or eight in the American League, which to me means in baseball -- because with the DH here, that's as good as it gets."
A sloppy first two innings by both sides led to some early runs, with the Red Sox striking first on Stephen Drew's one-out homer in the second. After Jackie Bradley Jr.'s double, Gonzalez allowed an infield single to Brock Holt, with first baseman Steve Pearce initially catching the throw from second baseman Jonathan Schoop, but letting it fall out of his glove as he spun around. Bradley, Jr. came around to score on the play to put Boston up 2-0.
The Orioles made up for it, using a two-out error by Bogaerts to even things up in the third. After Delmon Young reached on second baseman Dustin Pedroia's error, Caleb Joseph singled and, two outs later, Pearce bounced a ball to Bogaerts that he couldn't come up with.
The pair of unearned runs were the only mark against Lester, who struck out seven and didn't issue a walk, with the Orioles mustering only five hits with the tough lefty on the hill. The Orioles had just one leadoff man on, Nick Markakis in the eighth, but never really threatened. Boston's Koji Uehara had a perfect ninth inning before McFarland trotted out to the mound.
"Mac's throwing the ball as well as anyone down there," Showalter said. "It's just one of those things, you go, 'Gosh, we were lucky to be in it.' Just couldn't push it over with a base hit somewhere."