Win in Baltimore helps Sox even the score
BALTIMORE - It was at Camden Yards where the season ended for the Red Sox last year, the Baltimore Orioles scoring two runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 162.
The loss eliminated the Sox from postseason contention and touched off a series of changes in the organization. The effects of that transition lingered into this season as the Red Sox were depleted by injuries while adjusting to new manager Bobby Valentine.
But against a team they owed some payback, the Red Sox continued a steady climb back to respectability on Monday night, beating the Orioles, 8-6.
The Sox have won nine of their last 11 games and, at 21-21, are at .500 for the first time since April 30.
“It’s definitely not a goal,’’ Valentine said. “But it’s better than being under .500.’’
With the Yankees losing, the Sox are now tied for fourth place in the American League East, 5 1/2 games behind Baltimore.
The Sox learned before the game that outfielder Cody Ross would miss 6-8 weeks with a fractured bone in his left foot. Valentine cobbled together a lineup that included an outfield of Daniel Nava, Marlon Byrd and Che-Hsuan Lin.
No matter, the Sox’ offense provided after the latest erratic effort from Clay Buchholz left them trailing, 5-2. Every Sox starter had at least one hit, including Lin, his first in the majors. David Ortiz sparked the rally in the sixth inning with a monstrous home run.
“We’ve got to keep on playing,’’ Ortiz said. “You know how people hit the panic button [in Boston]. I guess everybody got the memo.’’
Once Buchholz was pulled in the sixth inning, the surprisingly reliable Sox bullpen shut down the Orioles.
Andrew Miller, who has been nearly perfect in eight appearances, stranded two runners in the sixth inning and pitched a perfect seventh on his 27th birthday. He ended up with the win.
“I just want to be successful at this level. I’m not going to be choosy,’’ Miller said. “I just want to prove I can be a significant player on a good team. I’m just trying to keep it going.’’
Rich Hill allowed a run in the eighth before Vicente Padilla stranded two of his runners.
Alfredo Aceves then closed the Orioles with a quick ninth inning for his 10th save. The Sox bullpen has a 1.59 earned run average since April 23.
Aceves has settled in as closer with Padilla as his most efficient set-up man. Padilla has stranded all 15 runners he has inherited this season and has been surprisingly durable, given his history of shoulder woes.
The Sox are Padilla’s fifth team in a 14-year career that has known success and failure in a variety of roles. Listed at 34, he looks 10 years older and has facial expressions best suited for a wanted poster.
“I’m kind of scared of him a little bit,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.
Maybe opposing hitters are, too, given Padilla’s success in recent weeks.
“I concentrate on making pitches and I try and be more aggressive with the fastball with runners on,’’ said Padilla, who speaks English to teammates but uses an interpreter with the media. “The game is on the line right there.’’
Said Valentine: “He takes it so personally when it’s somebody else’s run out there. It’s incredible. He said he’s been on the other end when his runs were given up. He really does take it as a personal situation, which is wonderful.’’
Orioles starter Tommy Hunter allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings. Mike Aviles had an RBI single in the third inning ahead of a sacrifice fly by Pedroia.
Ortiz started the comeback with a home run to right field that landed on Eutaw Street. It was his 10th home run of the season. Only 62 balls have landed on the street beyond right field and Ortiz has hit two of them, the first coming in 2003.
Adrian Gonzalez doubled down the line in left field before Will Middlebrooks reached on an infield single. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a productive out, advancing the runners with a grounder to first base.
Nava hit a fly ball to center, scoring Gonzalez and moving Middlebrooks to third. Hunter was then called for a balk and Middlebrooks scored the tying run.
Valentine credited Middlebrooks with causing the balk by breaking down the line.
“A veteran move,’’ Valentine said.
Kevin Gregg replaced Hunter to start the seventh inning and the Sox grabbed the lead.
Aviles singled with one out and raced to third when Pedroia doubled down the line in right. The Orioles then intentionally walked Ortiz, who was 1 for 10 against Gregg with four strikeouts.
It didn’t pay off. Gonzalez’s fly ball to left scored Aviles. Middlebrooks then singled sharply to center, giving him 16 RBIs in 18 games since being called up from Triple A Pawtucket.
In the eighth, Lin singled and scored on a single by Pedroia.
“Everybody on the team did something,’’ Gonzalez said. “That’s the way we have to play.’’