Brennan Bernardino leads Red Sox in win over Orioles

BALTIMORE — For the first 12 days of the season, lefty reliever Brennan Bernardino was at Triple-A Worcester and was not particularly happy about it. A key member of Boston’s bullpen last season, Bernardino wasn’t much in the mood to hear about roster flexibility.

But instead of sulking, Bernardino used the obligatory chip on his shoulder as a motivational tool. Perhaps Bernardino had nights like Tuesday in mind, when he would come on in a key spot against one of the best teams in the Major Leagues and get his team out of a big jam.

Backed by Bernardino getting himself and teammate Brayan Bello out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out predicament in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox escaped with an 8-3 victory at Camden Yards.

Nobody loved it more than Bello, who shouted and clapped from the dugout when Bernardino blew a 92.4-mph sinker by Gunnar Henderson to cap the inning.

“It was a magnificent job, what he was able to do,” said Bello. “I had to give him his hug and his kiss for the incredible job he did.”

Brennan Bernardino leads Red Sox in win over Orioles

Bernardino (0.78 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP in 20 appearances this season) appreciated the love, but he chalked up his fine performance as what he expects himself to do.

“It feels good. That’s literally what my job is — to come into situations and help my starter,” Bernardino said. “It felt great to do that.”

It was Boston’s first win in five tries against the Orioles this season, and it came a day after manager Alex Cora’s squad endured an 11-3 thumping on Memorial Day.

While Bernardino is Boston’s unsung hero, the same cannot be said for Rafael Devers. The Red Sox’s star slugger also had a big night, going 4-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs.

The triple didn’t look like one off the bat, particularly for Devers, who isn’t known for his speed. But Devers saw an opening when his 107.6-mph rocket to the opposite field took a nice ricochet off the angled portion of the left-field wall, and he motored the 270 feet for his eighth career triple.

“When your best player runs the bases the way he did today, that tells you the whole story,” said Cora.

Then there was Bello, who gave the Red Sox a third storyline from an eventful win. The righty had been sick the last few days, and Cora wasn’t sure he’d be able to take the ball.

Take the ball he did. Bello (6-2) gave up three runs in the first but then nothing over his final four frames. He gave way to Bernardino with two on and none out in the sixth. Even after Bernardino walked Ryan Mountcastle, the first batter he faced, it was no time to panic.

“Back home I was feeling a little sick, but that wasn’t going to stop me from giving 100 percent today,” said Bello. “I think in that first inning, my body wasn’t really all the way warmed up yet. But after we got past that, I was able to do what I do.”

Finally, the Orioles regained some momentum against Bello to start the sixth, as Anthony Santander led off with a single and Jordan Westburg was hit by a pitch.

Then, it was time for Bernardino, who turned it into a high-wire act by opening his outing by walking Mountcastle.

Bases loaded, nobody out? No problem. Bernardino struck out Austin Hays and then got a tapper back to the mound from Jorge Mateo before the punchout of the dangerous Henderson.

“Ever since you’re a kid, those are kind of the situations you draw up in the backyard,” said Bernardino. “So it’s fun actually getting to do them on this big of a stage.”

Opponents are 0-for-27 in the past 33 plate appearances with runners in scoring position against Bernardino. Since the start of the 2023 season, he has stranded 35 of 40 inherited runners.

Not done with his heroics in the sixth, Bernardino came back out and fired a 1-2-3 seventh that included two strikeouts, to finish with four K’s in his two frames.

For Bernardino, Tuesday was a far cry from March 26, when Cora told him he’d be starting the season at Triple-A. For someone who was taken in the 26th round of the 2014 Draft and spent parts of three seasons in the Mexican League, Bernardino has come to expect a challenging path.

“It was tough not making the Opening Day roster,” Bernardino said. “But even if I did make the Opening Day roster, I’m always kind of playing with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder being a late-round Draft pick guy and the journey I’ve taken. I’m just happy to be here right now.”

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