The Boston Red Sox put a satisfactory finish on a potentially disastrous road trip.
Adrian Beltre homered to spark a five-run second inning, and the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 on Thursday night to win the three-game series.
David Ortiz drove in two runs and J.D. Drew had three hits for the Red Sox, who moved within 61/2 games of idle Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card race.
Boston dropped two of three on the road against the Rays, then lost in Baltimore on Tuesday before winning two straight. The injury-riddled Red Sox still have plenty of ground to make up, but at least they’re still in the hunt.
“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 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 Red Sox open a six-game homestand Friday against former teammate Manny Ramirez and the Chicago White Sox.
“We have to play some more games and keep winning,” catcher Victor Martinez said.
After missing his last start with a sore back, Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-4) gave up four runs in 5 2-3 innings. He has allowed four runs in each of his last four outings.
“Right now, it’s not about me or my performance,” the right-hander said through an interpreter. “It’s the fact that the team can get the win in the games that I start.”
Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth for his 35th save, and second in two nights. Baltimore got runners on second and third with one out before Papelbon struck out Cesar Izturis and rookie Josh Bell.
“Just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Bell said. “There’s not much else you can do against those guys; they’re closing games for a reason.”
Coming close wasn’t good enough for Orioles manager Buck Showalter, denied a second time his 900th career win.
“I am proud that we had a chance, brought the go-ahead run to the plate,” he said. “You’d like to finish it off. That’s where the satisfaction comes in.”
Papelbon is the only pitcher in major league history to record at least 35 saves in each of his first five seasons. In 38 career appearances against the Orioles, he has 30 saves and an 0.75 ERA.
Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen (6-10) gave up five runs, two earned, eight hits and a career-high five walks in 5 1-3 innings. He was 3-0 in six starts since July 26.
Down 5-0 and limited to two hits over the first five innings, the Orioles chased Matsuzaka with a four-run sixth. Nick Markakis hit an RBI single and Ty Wigginton followed with a run-scoring groundout before Matt Wieters hit a two-run double.
“It was the first time since I aggravated my back that I threw at full strength. I think there’s a little adjustment there that I need to get over,” Matsuzaka said. “In the sixth inning, I think I rushed a little bit.”
The Red Sox made it 6-4 in the seventh. With runners on the corners and one out, Mike Lowell hit a grounder to third. Bell’s throw to second was behind the bag, and although Brian Roberts made the catch, his off-balance relay bounced through Wigginton’s legs at first base.
A poor fielding play was also a factor in the pivotal second inning. After Beltre hit his 25th homer on Bergesen’s first pitch, the Red Sox got another run when Wigginton mishandled a sharp grounder by Daniel Nava. Ryan Kalish added an RBI double before Ortiz slapped a two-run, opposite-field single to left.
The two mishaps in the field served as a reminder that it takes near-flawless play to win in the AL East.
“To compete in this division, you are going to have to bring your best game to the field every day,” Wieters said. “We are going to have to be as fundamentally sound as we can, and today we weren’t.”
The only runner against Matsuzaka in the first three innings was Luke Scott, who reached on an error and was promptly wiped out in a double play. Markakis got Baltimore’s first hit, a one-out double in the fourth.
Wieters doubled with one out in the fifth but did not advance.
Notes: Beltre leads Boston with 92 RBIs and needs two more to reach 1,000 in his career. … Baltimore CF Adam Jones (shoulder) was held out and is day-to-day. … Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia will have a CT scan on his broken left foot Friday and will have season-ending surgery if there is no apparent improvement. … Boston finished 4-5 in Baltimore after going 8-1 last year.