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The Red Sox needed this one. After a rocky week, Boston was able to salvage the road trip, beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 on Thursday night.
Adrian Beltre homered during a five-run second inning, David Ortiz drove in two runs, and J.D. Drew had three hits for the Red Sox, who won the three-game series. The win moved the Sox within 6½ games of Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card race.
After missing his last start with a sore back, Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-4) gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings. It was his fourth straigh start where he allowed four runs.
“Right now, it’s not about me or my performance,” said Matsuzaka. “It’s the fact that the team can get the win in the games that I start.”
He has a point, as wins are all the Red Sox need right now. Boston dropped two of three on the road against the Rays, then lost in Baltimore on Tuesday before taking the last two in a row. While they still have a lot of ground to make up, the skeleton-crew Red Sox are still alive and scrapping for a wildcard spot. With former slugger Manny Ramirez returning to Fenway, this time in a White Sox uniform, Boston can not afford to slip any further.
“We got off to a rough start on the road trip, but we were able to finish strong, win these last two,” said Scott Atchison, who pitched two huge scoreless innings of relief. “We got some momentum going and hopefully we can take it home, get on a big roll. You never know what can happen from there.”
The Orioles looked as though they solved Matsuzaka with a four-run sixth. Until then, the right-hander had been stymying, allowing only two hits and no runs. Nick Markakis hit an RBI single and Ty Wigginton added a run-scoring groundout before Matt Wieters hit a two-run double. Matsuzaka said through his interpreter that he admittedly rushed through the inning.
The Red Sox made it 6-4 in the seventh. With runners on first and third, Mike Lowell hit a grounder to third. Bell’s throw to second was poor, and although Brian Roberts made the catch, an off-balance relay bounced through Wigginton’s legs at first base.
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth and recorded his 35th save, but not before Oriole runners reached second and third. Papelbon struck out Cesar Izturis and rookie Josh Bell to clinch the victory. Papelbon is the only pitcher in major league history to record at least 35 saves in each of his first five seasons.