By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON After clawing their way back from a six-run deficit, the Red Sox beat the Orioles, 8-7, on Adrian Gonzalezs two-run double in the ninth inning at Fenway Park Monday night. It is the first time the Sox have been above the .500 mark this season.
But, they certainly didnt take the easy route getting there.
Daisuke Matsuzaka faced eight batters in the first inning, giving up two runs. He went 4 13 giving up five runs on five hits and seven walks with two strikeouts. His walk total was one shy of his career high, which he had done twice previously on May 5, 2008, in five innings, and on May 27, 2010 in 4 23 innings.
Despite the hole Matsuzaka left them in, the Sox fought back, scoring five runs in the sixth, sending 10 batters to the plate. The Orioles, though, were able to fend off the Sox, scoring a run in the seventh when Alfredo Aceves allowed a lead-off home run to Mark Reynolds. The Sox added another run in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit.
Os closer Kevin Gregg entered in the ninth with seven saves in nine opportunities this season. After getting Jason Varitek to fly out, Gregg gave up back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury, who stole second, and Dustin Pedroia, 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.
Aceves (1-0, 2.60 ERA) got the win, going three innings, allowing one run on two hits with no walks, two strikeouts, and a home run. It was Greggs (0-1, 3.52) third blown save of the season.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Adrian Gonzalez
With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury on second, Dustin Pedroia on first, and the Sox down one run in the ninth inning, Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate. He 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.
Gonzalez went 3-for-5, raising his average to .327, with a run scored and three RBI extending his American League lead to 37 RBI.
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.
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 Os bullpen gave up eight runs, while just four were earned capped by Greggs 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 Greggs third blown save of the season.
THE TURNING POINT:
Despite the ninth-inning dramatics, the momentum of the game changed in the sixth inning. Until that point, the Sox had been unable to get on the scoreboard. But, down by six runs, they scored five in the inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. With starter Chris Tillman out of the game, the Os used three relievers in the inning.
With Michael Gonzalez on the mound, J.D. Drew opened with 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. 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. Clay Rapada replaced Accardo and gave up a walk to David Ortiz before Drew grounded out.
The five runs in the inning match a season high for the Sox.
STAT OF THE DAY: 21-20
For the first time this season the Sox are above .500. They did it with a season-high 15 hits. After starting the season 2-10, they are 19-10 since.
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