By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON The Red Sox clawed their way back from a six-run deficit Monday night and beat the Orioles, 8-7, on Adrian Gonzalezs two-run double in the ninth inning at Fenway Park.
It increased Boston's record to 21-20, the first time the Sox have been above .500 this season.
But, they certainly didnt take the easy route getting there.
Daisuke Matsuzaka lasted only 4 13 innings and gave up five runs on five hits and seven walks. But despite the hole Matsuzaka left them in, the Sox fought back, scoring five runs in the sixth and cutting their deficit to 6-5. The Orioles made it 7-5 when Alfredo Aceves allowed a lead-off home run to Mark Reynolds in the seventh, but the Sox countered with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Os closer Kevin Gregg gave up back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in the ninth, setting the stage for Gonzalezs dramatics. He took the first pitch from Gregg, an 80-mph slider, and banged it off the Wall, scoring Ellsbury and Pedroia for the win. It was Gonzalezs first game-winning hit with the Sox.
Player of the Game: Adrian Gonzalez
With one out, two runners on and the Sox down one run in bottom of the ninth inning, Adrian Gonzalez crushed the first pitch from Orioles closer Kevin Gregg off the Wall to give the Sox the win, 8-7. Gonzalezs first walk-off hit for the Red Sox also put them above .500 for the first time this season.
"Gregg likes to get ahead on the outer half with certain pitches and I was just looking for a fastball middle-away and try to stay behind it," Gonzalez said. "He ended up throwing a slider that it was kind of one of those get-me-over sliders and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Gonzalez went 3-for-5, raising his average to .327, with a run scored and three RBI. He now has 37 runs-batted in, leading the American
Honorable Mention: Kevin Youkilis
Youkilis two-run double was the Sox big blow in the five-run sixth inning. He went 2-for-4, with two doubles, a walk, and two RBI.
Youkilis' hit ended the night for O's reliever Michael Gonzalez, who allowed four runs on three hits in a disastrous one-third of an inning. It was the second straight game in which Youkilis has delivered the big blow, including a game-tying three-run homer Sunday in New York.
"Youk's been great," said Dustin Pedroia . "He's had big hit after big hit, and we need that from him. He's a guy who's done that his whole career and we've kind of taken advantage of it and get used to it. But he's pretty good.''
Youkilis has eight RBI in his last five games, and 27 overall, second on the team to Gonzalez's 37.
"It's been kind of an interesting run for him," manager Terry Francona said before the game. "We've seen him take more swings maybe out of the zone and some swings-and-misses that we're maybe not accustomed to. But it looks like maybe you make that one mistake and he's been hitting that three-run homer. Certainly that threat there's a lot of production in there and he's creeping up, his batting average and things like that. The one thing I always talk about: he
never gives at-bats away because even when it's a struggle for him, you make that one mistake and the game's turned around."
The Goat: Kevin Gregg
Kevin Gregg entered the game with seven saves in nine opportunities this season. He also had a precarious one-run lead. After starter Chris Tillman lasted just five innings, keeping the Sox scoreless, the O's bullpen - manager Buck Showalter needed six relievers to get through the final 3 13 innings -- gave up eight runs, while just four were earned, capped by Gregg's disastrous one-third of an inning. After getting Jason Varitek to fly out to open the ninth, he issued back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, giving the Sox and Gonzalez the advantage in the situation. Gonzalez wasted no time taking advantage, with a first-pitch, game-winning double. It was Gregg's third blown save of the season.
Turning Point: Red Sox' sixth inning
The momentum of the game changed in the sixth inning. Down by six runs, the Red Sox scored five in the inning, sending 10 batters to the plate.
Reliever Michael Gonzalez replaced starter Chris Tillman to open the inning and J.D. Drew hit a single to left-center, taking second on an error by Luke Scott. Jed Lowrie doubled to right, scoring Drew. Carl Crawford reached on a Mark Reynolds error, with Lowrie going to third. Jason Varitek singled, scoring Lowrie. Jacoby Ellsbury lined out, bringing in Jeremy Accardo to replace Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia flied out. Adrian Gonzalez singled to left, scoring Crawford. Kevin Youkilis doubled off the wall in left, scoring Varitek and Gonzalez (above right). Clay Rapada replaced Accardo and gave up a walk to David Ortiz before Drew grounded out.
The five runs in the inning matched a season high for the Sox.
"Of course, obviously everyone's going to look at Adrian's hit as the big one,'' said Jed Lowrie. "But I don't think you can discount any other hits we got tonight, especially in those last three innings. They're all big. So you can't discount any one of them."
By the Numbers: 21-20
For the first time this season the Sox are above .500. They did it with a season-high 15 hits for a nine-inning game. After starting the season 2-10, a .166 winning percentage, they are 19-10 since (.655).
"We definitely got the team that's more than capable of doing it day in and day out," said Adrian Gonzalez. "Collectively we were able to have good consistent at-bats and just kept trying to have professional at-bats and get up."
Quote of Note:
I actually thought we deserved to win that game. We battled back. We had some really good at-bats. We werent rewarded for all of them. And we kept battling, and something good happened. A tough game to win.
Theres something to be said for just continuing to play. And we got to hit last, and we had a really good hitter at the plate.
--Red Sox manager Terry Francona on his teams 8-7 walk-off win against the Orioles Monday night at Fenway Park
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.