By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- With three-fifths of their Opening Day starting rotation on the disabled list, the Red Sox could be in panic mode.
Instead, they're in first place in the American League East.
The Sox offense more than picked up the slack Thursday night, combining for six home runs as they pounded their way to a 10-4 win over the Orioles that, coupled with the Yankees' loss to the Rays, moved them back atop the A.L. East. They hadn't hit that many homers in a game since July 4, 2003, at Yankee Stadium, when they connected for seven.
The biggest blast came from the smallest player in a Sox uniform. Dustin Pedroia hit his ninth homer of the season, a three-run shot in the third that cleared the Green Monster and landed on the parking deck across Lansdowne Street, turning a 2-0 Baltimore lead into a 3-2 Boston advantage. In the seventh inning, David Ortiz and Josh Reddick and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitback-to-back-to-back solo home runs as the Sox blew it open.
The guys did a great job, said manager Terry Francona. We scored and we added on. Pedey with a big hit early, put us back in it. Kept fighting and getting big hits the rest of the way.
I just got a ball, it was actually up and in, Pedroia said. It was out of the strike zone but I was able to get the barrel on it. So it worked out for us tonight.
Adrian Gonzalez had a solo shot in the fifth, his 17th of the season, and Jacoby Ellsbury added a two-run shot in the sixth.
In all, the Sox clubbed 13 hits, shy of their season-high of 20 but more than enough to get the job done.
Its a very good offense and I think we all talked about it before the season started, said Gonzalez, who collected his 17th homer of the season. Were just capable of putting up a lot of runs.
We saw the ball well today. It was a good game to start the series. Hopefully, we can continue Friday.
Which of the six home runs was most impressive? It depends on whom you ask.
I dont know, said Pedroia. We put some good swings. I dont know. You guys can figure that one out.
Ill take them all, said Ellsbury. We had a variety. One monster ball, two to dead center, a few to right. They were all pretty good swings. You can't go wrong with any one of them.
Pedeys, said Gonzalez. That one just because of the situation, putting us ahead. It put us ahead and we didnt look back after that.
The Sox have now won three in a row and seven of their last eight games. Finishing with interleague play, getting their DH back is a big factor.
I think getting out of the National League is helpful, said Saltalamacchia. We had nine games in a row without David. Thats our DH. We need him. So obviously that kind of killed what we had going beforehand. But now were back in our park and we got him back in there.
After some post-interleague struggles -- entering Thursday night, he was 2-for-28 since June 21 -- Ortiz went 2-for-4 against the Os. His home run, a laser to straightaway center field, was the 145th of his career at Fenway, tying him with Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr for fifth all-time.
Hes back, he said, in the groove he wants to be in.
Im back to normal, he said. And the more I play, the better I feel.
The homer, his 18th of the season, came off left-hander Pedro Viola, a sign of good things. It was just his fourth home run against a left-handed pitcher this season.
That swing against a lefty, thats pretty indicative, Francona said. When you hit a ball like that against a lefty you got to have a good swing."
Francona understood Ortiz' recent struggles, which were due in large part to being relegated to mostly pinch-hitting duties during the nine interleague road games.
"We did the best we could in interleague," said Francona. "We knew it was going to be tough.
But, now they are back in the American League, back at Fenway, and in first place.
What I want to do, said Francona, is win tomorrow.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen