HOUSTON -- Almost without warning, the eruption came. With it, there were big hits -- not to mention a hit batter -- and a memorable show of emotion from spark plug Dustin Pedroia.
The Red Sox came storming back in the top of the seventh inning on Friday night at Minute Maid Park and pulled out a 7-5 victory over the Astros.
How could anyone have known Boston would score six runs in the seventh inning, more than the club had scored in any game on the first six games of what had been a frustrating road trip?
"Well, we hadn't done a lot up until that point. We started to get something going," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
Bud Norris hadn't just limited the Sox through the first six innings -- he had overpowered them, allowing just one hit. The right-hander took a 5-1 lead with him to the mound in that seventh when everything changed.
By the time Pedroia came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Norris had been knocked out. Wilton Lopez fired a 2-1 pitch for a called strike that Pedroia took exception to with home-plate umpire Laz Diaz.
On the next pitch, Pedroia spun a game-tying two-run single down the first-base line. As he was about halfway to first, he whipped his head around and started shouting, perhaps trying to make a point to Diaz.
Pedroia didn't feel like expanding on his emotions at that moment after the game.
"I don't know," Pedroia said. "I don't even remember, man. I'm out of my mind half the time anyways."
Once Pedroia brought the Red Sox back, Adrian Gonzalez put them ahead, hammering a towering two-run double off the fence covering the Red Sox's bullpen.
"Gonzi didn't really swing the bat all night, except for the time we really needed it," Francona said. "He rifles one to right-center. It changes the whole game."
It was Gonzalez's only hit in five at-bats.
"He left a fastball middle of the plate, and I was able to get it in the air and hit it off the wall for a double," said Gonzalez.
J.D. Drew put the rally in motion with a leadoff single up the middle. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed by ripping a single to right. Josh Reddick hit a flare down the line in left that fell for an RBI double, bringing home Drew and knocking Norris out of the game.
"It happened fast," said Norris. "J.D. Drew, [I] got behind a good hitter, and he hit a ball real hard up the middle, started off a good rally for them. I made the pitch I wanted to Saltalamacchia, a good changeup down and away, and he put a good swing on it, base hit to right field. Had Reddick in a situation 2-2 and I made the pitch I wanted, and check-swing down the line, and as you know, the rest is history and that was it.
"That's a great offensive team, and you have to tip your cap, because that's what they do every night. That's a championship-caliber team. It's a little frustrating, but like I said, it happened quickly unfortunately."
Drew Sutton hit a bullet to short that shortstop Clint Barmes couldn't field. The RBI single got Saltalamacchia in from third, and it was a two-run game.
Pinch-hitter Darnell McDonald was hit by a pitch to load the bases with still nobody out. For McDonald, who has struggled mightily this season, it was a sign that perhaps things are about to turn around for him.
"Right now, I'm just grinding," McDonald said. "It's baseball. You go through different peaks and valleys. Right now, I'll take anything. Anything positive, I'll take it. That was a positive to get on base and score a run. It's funny how some of the little things can get you going."
The Astros had temporary hope when Lopez struck out Marco Scutaro for the first out.
But Pedroia and Gonzalez wouldn't let them off the hook.
And with the win, the Red Sox reached the halfway point of their season with a 47-34 record, putting them on pace for 94 wins. Boston trails the Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the American League East, but leads the AL Wild Card standings by that same amount.
"It actually means nothing," Francona said. "When we're done with the season, I'll give you a better answer. I don't think you're ever content or satisfied with where you're at until it's over and you've won. We always talk at the beginning of the year about getting into the grind. We're into that. We bailed ourselves out of that miserable start and we certainly have a long way to go, but we're playing better."
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, three wins away from 200, didn't have his best stuff in this one. He gave up 11 hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings.
"Obviously the results speak for themselves," Wakefield said. "I didn't have a very good feel. I got ahead of a lot of guys and just couldn't finish them off. It seemed like they put the ball in play with two strikes and were getting a lot of hits."
Dan Wheeler came on to get the last two outs of the sixth and earned the win -- his first with the Red Sox.
Scutaro got the night off to a fast start for the Red Sox when he clubbed a leadoff homer to left. Scutaro was only bumped up to the top spot in the order after Jacoby Ellsbury was a late scratch because of an illness.