BALTIMORE — Brandon Workman pitched the eighth inning of the deciding game of the World Series last fall and started this season back in the bullpen for the Red Sox.
He was sent back to Triple A Pawtucket on April 9 to work as a starter, the Red Sox making the decision to weaken their bullpen in the interest of one day strengthening their rotation.
Workman demonstrated the wisdom of that move on Tuesday night. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles, 1-0.
Workman allowed just one hit over 6⅔ innings before Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara finished off the Orioles. It was the first time this season the Sox won a game in which they scored fewer than three runs.
With no room for a mistake, Workman never lost focus.
“I was trying to stay in the moment and keep executing pitches and keep working each batter. Not get ahead of myself,” said the 25-year-old righthander.
Workman struck out four and walked one, using a sharp curveball to keep the Orioles off balance. What made the assignment even tougher was a 15-minute rain delay in the second inning then a delay of 1 hour and 18 minutes in that same inning.
Workman threw two simulated innings in the batting cage to stay loose. When the game started back up, he retired nine consecutive hitters.
Workman lost his perfect game by walking Nelson Cruz with one out in the fifth inning. The no-hitter vanished with two outs in the sixth inning when Ryan Flaherty singled to center field on a first-pitch curveball.
An unruffled Workman got the ball back, threw another curve and got Nick Markakis on a slow grounder to end the inning.
“It seems like three-quarters of the [Baltimore] lineup can hit it out of the ballpark,” said Workman, who has a 3.27 earned run average in four starts. “You have to stay locked in.”
Workman got the first two outs of the seventh inning before manager John Farrell called in lefthander Andrew Miller to face lefthanded-hitting slugger Chris Davis.
Workman had struck Davis out twice and thrown only 67 pitches, but Farrell played the percentages and Miller struck Davis out swinging at a slider.
“In light of the two rain delays he gave us more than we anticipated when we resumed play,” Farrell said.
For Uehara, his 13th save was a little complicated. Pinch hitter Steve Pearce led off with a single to left field. When Flaherty bunted in front of the plate, Uehara fielded the ball and made a strong throw to second base to get the lead runner.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski yelled at Uehara to go to first base on the play.
“I assessed the situation and felt I could get an out at second,” said Uehara, a two-time Gold Glove winner in Japan.
Watching from the clubhouse, Workman wasn’t concerned when Uehara went to second.
“That was an unbelievable play,” he said. “The ball was hit pretty hard back to him. I was thinking he had a shot at it. He executed it as well as you can.”
Uehara got Markakis to pop a foul ball behind the plate. Pierzynski had a play on the ball near the backstop netting, but dropped it. He was charged with an error.
Uehara struck out Markakis on the next pitch, a splitter that dropped away as it reached the plate. Uehara then struck out Manny Machado to end the game. He has thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings, dropping his ERA to 0.65.
The Red Sox pitchers had to be precise as their offense was again inept.
Baltimore starter Chris Tillman had allowed 20 earned runs on 24 hits and 12 walks over 14⅓ innings in his previous four starts, but he held the Red Sox to one run on seven hits over six innings.
Brock Holt, who has hit safely in 10 consecutive games, singled to start the third inning. David Ortiz walked with two outs before Mike Napoli’s soft single to right field gave the Red Sox the lead.
Tillman retired seven in a row before Grady Sizemore reached second on a dropped pop-up by Flaherty down the line in right. With another runner in scoring position, Herrera popped to shortstop.
Righthander Ryan Webb retired the Sox in order in the seventh inning. Lefty Brian Matusz got two outs in the eighth before pinch hitter Jonny Gomes singled to right field. Pierzynski hit a fastball deep to right-center. It appeared to have home-run distance and height off the bat, but Markakis made a catch up against the wall.
The Sox left nine runners on base but Workman made the one run stand up. With Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz working their way back off the disabled list, Workman’s immediate future is uncertain. But long term, the Red Sox have a young starter they can count on.
“When you start to profile what a starting pitcher is, he fits that bill. He’s durable, he gets outs with his fastball and tonight was another reason why we like him in this role,” Farrell said.