Sox rally to drop Orioles
Big seventh inning puts Boston on top to halt skid
BOSTON -- Basketball star and new Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett was cheering wildly from a private box behind home plate. Reliever Eric Gagne, who arrived at Fenway Park to officially join his new team earlier in the day, took it all in from the bullpen.
The newest additions to the Boston sports landscape joined 36,649 other spectators in watching the Red Sox pull out a 5-4 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
A four-run rally by the Sox in the bottom of the seventh overturned a 3-1 deficit.
"Winning is winning," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It doesn't matter how you do it."
For sure, this wasn't one of the more artistic wins of the season by the Red Sox. But once the calendar turns to August, style points no longer count for much. The 65-42 Sox, in snapping a two-game losing streak, maintained their seven-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
With a two-run lead going into the eighth, manager Terry Francona went to Hideki Okajima, who gave up a solo homer to Miguel Tejada. Jonathan Papelbon took care of the ninth, pinning down the save.
Though Gagne will be counted on heavily down the stretch, he got to soak in his new surroundings on this night.
"It was pretty special," said Gagne. "The fans were great in L.A. and Texas, same thing. But here, it's just special. They have it in their blood. They're really bleeding Red Sox red. It's pretty special. It's an honor to be here. I just want to fit in as much as I can and try to help them win a World Series."
There were roars when Gagne initially went out to the bullpen at the start of the sixth inning and more when he had a touch and feel warmup session while Papelbon finished out the game.
"We won the game, and I had the adrenaline pumping again," Gagne said. "Like I said earlier, I'm going to close the eighth inning. That's a good feeling. It's an honor for me to be here and wear that uniform."
There wasn't a whole lot to cheer about over the first six innings, as the Boston bats couldn't come up with the big hit. But everything changed in the seventh, when the Orioles tried to play the matchups in relief of starter Steve Trachsel.
Right-hander Paul Shuey was out of the gate first, and he walked Julio Lugo and gave up a single up the middle to Pedroia. Then it was on to lefty Steve Parrish, and Ortiz banged out an RBI double off the Monster to make it a one-run game.
"Once [Ortiz] hit that ball, it felt like it was contagious," Pedroia said.
An intentional walk to Manny Ramirez loaded them up with nobody out. Then Kevin Youkilis, facing former teammate Chad Bradford, came up with the biggest hit of the night, a line drive double that brought home two runs and gave the Red Sox their first lead.
"I just tried to battle," said Youkilis. "I was fortunate the ball fell in. It was great just to get that lead."
Most gratifying was the way it occurred.
"Yeah, it was so quiet and we weren't doing much to make it loud," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "And then we had a really good inning. We strung together a lot of good at-bats, where if we don't, and somebody [grounds out], we're swimming upstream. They were able to match up, but our guys really had good at-bats."
Another factor not to be overlooked was the work of Julian Tavarez, who seamlessly moved back into the rotation for one night after Kason Gabbard, the original starter for Wednesday, was dealt to the Rangers for Gagne on Tuesday.
Tavarez battled as he usually does, giving up seven hits and three runs over five innings while getting a no-decision.
"I was happy to go out there and eat up some innings," said Tavarez. "I don't have to get a 'W,' as long as we win the game."
The actual win came from lefty Javy Lopez, who threw all of two pitches to earn his one out of the night. Kyle Snyder came up big before that, firing 1 2/3 shutout innings.
The Orioles broke out first when Nick Markakis clubbed a solo homer off Tavarez with two outs in the top of the first.
Pedroia tried to hustle the Red Sox into a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning. The rookie second baseman hit a one-out single and Ortiz followed with a walk. Catcher Ramon Hernandez took a couple of steps toward the mound after ball four and Pedroia never stopped running, moving all the way to third.
However, Manny Ramirez grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, making Pedroia's hustle a moot point.
In the second, the Orioles again mustered some two-out damage against Tavarez, who was making a one-start cameo back in the rotation. Chris Gomez and Brian Roberts worked back-to-back RBI doubles to left to boost the Baltimore lead to 3-0.
The Red Sox got one run back against Trachsel in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly to left by Pedroia. The run was unearned, thanks to a throwing error by Miguel Tejada earlier in the inning.
All became quiet after that -- at least until Boston's sudden surge in the seventh.
"It just so happened that we had one big inning to put us over the top," said center fielder Coco Crisp.
On this night, that was all it took.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.