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Framework got them settled

Seven-run seventh erased any angst

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 20, 2011

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Hard to believe, in a game in which the Red Sox matched season highs by scoring 18 runs and pounding out 20 hits, but they actually went through an in-game dry spell.

What had been an 11-5 lead through three innings last night against the Orioles had been cut to 11-9 three innings later, with the Sox not scoring - or getting a hit - in the fourth, fifth, or sixth.

The seventh inning made up for that. In a hurry, and in a big way.

Boston sent 10 batters to the plate, with the first seven reaching and scoring. Jacoby Ellsbury and Conor Jackson had the big blows, both hitting highlight-reel home runs, as the Sox earned a split of their doubleheader, beating Baltimore, 18-9, and ending the day exactly where they began it: two games in front of Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race.

If the sell-out crowd at Fenway grew comfortable after three innings, and numb after six, the seventh allowed for one big, collective exhale.

“We swung the bats great, we’ve got to continue to keep it going,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who went 3 for 4 in the nightcap, scoring twice and driving in four. “Tomorrow we’re going to come out and play hard and hopefully we swing the bats just like we did tonight.’’

That’s a lofty bar to set.

Ellsbury, who went 3 for 6 and finished a triple short of the cycle, led off the seventh with the first inside-the-park home run of his career. Facing Jeremy Accardo, Ellsbury launched a shot over the head of center fielder Matt Angle and into the deepest part of the park. It bounced off the bullpen wall and shot toward left field. Ellsbury reached home without benefit of a slide, thrilled he was able to touch all four bases, but hoping it had been at a slower trot.

“When I hit it I was hoping it was going to go out, but once I saw it hit the wall, I saw it carom, and I thought I had a pretty good shot at getting an inside-the-park home run,’’ Ellsbury said. “I’d rather it just went over the fence, but it’s exciting. My first one.’’

Jackson also accomplished a first in the same inning. Three straight singles followed Ellsbury’s homer, with Pedroia’s scoring Marco Scutaro. A walk to David Ortiz loaded the bases, and a hard single by Jed Lowrie scored Lars Anderson, who had pinch run for Adrian Gonzalez, but kept the bases loaded.

With one swing, Jackson unloaded them. He sent a 2-and-1 pitch from Clay Rapada into the Monster seats, officially turning a 14-9 Sox lead into a laugher. Coming over from Oakland in a trade on Sept. 1, it was Jackson’s first home run in a Sox uniform, and his second career grand slam. His first came July 17.

“Coming from a team like Oakland, where we didn’t score too many runs, to a team like this, where I feel like every time I’m hitting there’s guys on, when you have that, it creates better offensive players,’’ said Jackson.

It’s the second time this homestand that the Sox have scored 18 runs; they beat Toronto, 18-6, seven days ago, but followed that with losses in five of their next six games, counting yesterday afternoon’s 6-5 loss in the doubleheader opener, a stretch in which their wild-card lead was cut to 1 1/2 games.

The only Sox starter without a hit was catcher Jason Varitek, who went 0 for 4 and struck out four times. The captain didn’t seem to mind.

“It was a much-needed win,’’ he said. “We had to do it offensively.’’

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