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Orioles, 6-5; Red Sox, 18-9

Hitting back

Offense helps Sox to split of doubleheader

David Ortiz had a right to be angry after flying out to end the fifth in Game 1. Earlier in the at-bat, he ripped a ball down the line in right that was ruled foul but should’ve been an RBI hit. David Ortiz had a right to be angry after flying out to end the fifth in Game 1. Earlier in the at-bat, he ripped a ball down the line in right that was ruled foul but should’ve been an RBI hit. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / September 20, 2011

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A doubleheader split with the Orioles has left the Red Sox two games in front of the Rays in the battle for a wild-card spot, one game ahead of surging Tampa Bay in the loss column.

Making the playoffs is squarely up to them.

“It’s all about winning games right now,’’ said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia following an 18-9 win over the Orioles in the nightcap after they bowed to the Orioles, 6-5, in the day game.

If Game 2 ends up being the launching pad for their playoff bid, the Sox showed they still have firepower, although they did so against Brian Matusz, one of the worst starters in the league, and a bullpen that left numerous balls out over the plate. The Sox pounded out 20 hits, including a grand slam by Conor Jackson, a three-run homer by Jed Lowrie, and an inside-the-park homer by Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Ellsbury and Jackson homers highlighted a seven-run seventh inning that expanded Boston’s 11-9 lead.

“It was good to see all the hits and the home runs,’’ said designated hitter David Ortiz. “That’s what we need to keep doing.’’

Asked whether this could ignite a good stretch of games, Ortiz said, “I hope so.’’

It was tough to feel too good about Game 2 because John Lackey was an adventure again, nearly giving back an 11-3 lead. He left with the score 11-8 in the fifth inning.

“Physically, arm-strength wise, I felt about as good as I had all year,’’ said Lackey whose ERA rose to 6.49 after he allowed 11 hits and eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. It marked the 13th time in the last 19 games a Sox starter has gone five innings or fewer.

“I’m glad we won, but I’m pretty frustrated,’’ Lackey said.

What was optimistic for the Sox was that Scott Atchison got what manager Terry Francona described as “four big outs’’ in relief of Lackey. He also said the Lowrie homer in the first inning “got us right back in it.’’ It put the Sox ahead, 4-3, after Lackey had given up three in the first inning.

While Jackson’s homer was icing on an offensive outburst, his diving catch to rob Nick Markakis of a hit in the third was also important. Jackson played left field in the nightcap as Carl Crawford again was unable to go because of a stiff neck sustained before Game 1.

“You want to try to contribute any way you can,’’ Jackson said.

In the first game, the featured play was a poor call in the fifth inning, when Ortiz’s liner to right field was ruled a foul ball. Replays showed otherwise. With two runs in to pull the Sox within 6-4 and Pedroia on third base, Ortiz drove a ball into the corner, where that funky foul line tends to blend with the wall.

It’s a tough call for umpires, but after Francona came out to argue after hearing from a Sox staff assistant that the replay showed it was fair, the umpires huddled and upheld the foul call.

Because it wasn’t a home run call, instant replay wasn’t allowed. Ortiz then sent a deep drive to center for the third out.

“I know it was [fair],’’ Francona said. “I know it’s a tough corner; I asked [the umpire] to ask anybody, because I told him, you hate to tell him, but the guys in the dugout have already seen it, so you’d like to get this call right. I wish they could have kept asking somebody else, they ran out of people to ask.’’

Ortiz said, “It’s up to [the umpires]; it’s a mistake that happens, we’ve just got to deal with it.

“We tried to win a baseball game, and it’s not the right call; not everything [needs replay], because it would take forever to play the game. A situation like that doesn’t happen too often, I think it would be fair enough to review it.’’

Before Ortiz’s at-bat, Marco Scutaro walked with two out and Adrian Gonzalez drove him in with a double. Pedroia then sent a triple off the center-field wall.

The Sox gave rookie Kyle Weiland the ball in Game 1 and the results were similar to his previous four starts, in which he was 0-2 with a 7.58 ERA.

Weiland’s outing may have been different had Darnell McDonald not lost two balls in the sun in left field in the third as a replacement for Crawford. Leadoff hitter Matt Angle then drove in a pair of runs with a double to left.

In the fourth inning, Weiland allowed a two-run homer to Robert Andino, then a solo shot to Nolan Reimold.

Weiland allowed a leadoff homer to J.J. Hardy in the fifth, and was pulled after a two-out walk.

“I went out there with a real aggressive attitude, go right at guys; obviously that worked out the first and second inning,’’ he said. “It’s the second game now that the third inning comes along and something changes a little bit, almost like I start seeing the same guys again and I get less aggressive with my fastball, and when you fall behind, most of the time you’re going to get hurt.’’

McDonald went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in Game 1, answered for his miscues.

“The first one was a tough sun. I lost it in the sun. I saw it off the bat and after that I didn’t see it,’’ he said. “The second one I got there and took my eye off it at the last minute.

“I feel terrible putting my team in the hole like that. But you’ve got to bounce back and play the game. It was a tough day for me. It was terrible out there today. You’re paid to play baseball. I was ready. It was just one of them days where I didn’t make the plays.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at

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