The Red Sox got back to winning, and back to scoring runs Friday night in Baltimore, pushing across seven on three big homers from David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Brock Holt.
The early story was not about the lineup, but Rick Porcello. Making his first start after his meltdown against this same Orioles team, Porcello was a man on a mission. The first five Orioles who stepped to the plate were all sent back to the bench on strike three. This coming from the pitcher who more or less set the model for Boston's ground ball strategy in the offseason.
Porcello would hold the Orioles without a hit through their first 13 outs, but in the fourth, he would falter in exactly the way we've come to expect from Porcello over his first few starts--and exactly the way he hasn't over the course of his career. An ugly 2-2 slider that didn't slide caught the heart of the plate, and Jimmy Paredes bashed it over the right field wall for a two-run homer. In a game that had been dominated by Porcello on the mound, and in which the Red Sox were the only ones even threatening to score, the Orioles suddenly had a 2-0 lead.
Perhaps that snapped them out of the funk that plagued them in Tampa Bay. With two down in the fifth, Mookie Betts drew a six-pitch walk, quietly sparking what would become a very loud rally. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single, bringing David Ortiz to the plate as the go-ahead run. Miguel Gonzalez delivered a hanging Changeup, and Ortiz lifted it just beyond the reach of Delmon Young in right for a three-run shot. Just two pitches later, another off-speed offering betrayed Gonzalez, with Hanley Ramirez the benefactor this time, going back-to-back with Ortiz to make it a 4-2 lead.
Unfortunately for Boston, what Hanley produced with the bat, he more-or-less gave back with his glove. A terrible route kept him from settling underneath a Rey Navarro fly ball, but Ramirez was still there to make the catch on the run. He just...didn't, allowing Navarro to reach second with one down. That left Rick Porcello on the line for a third earned run when Everth Cabrera hit a two-out single to plate Navarro from third.
Where the bottom of the sixth was on his defense, Porcello was legitimately unable to record an out in the seventh. A walk to Chris Davis and a flare from Delmon Young was enough to end his night, and Everth Cabrera once again proved up to the task of bringing the run home, this time with a sacrifice fly off of Craig Breslow. Alexi Ogando managed to get out of the inning without allowing another run, but the damage had been done, and the game was tied.
As before, though, the Red Sox were quick to respond. And again, it came with two outs. And again, it was sparked by a walk--this time from Pablo Sandoval. It was another ground ball that kept the rally going, but this time Manny Machado lent a hand in letting it get through into left, bringing not David Ortiz, but Brock Holt to the plate. And of course, because it was the 5'10" Holt and not one of the most prolific power hitters in the game today, he didn't just barely hit a three-run homer, he crushed one right over the tall wall in right field, putting Boston ahead 7-4.
The bullpen effort in the final two innings was by no means immaculate. Junichi Tazawa allowed his first run of the year on a solo shot to Chris Davis, and Koji Uehara allowed a leadoff single and had men on the corners with one out. But splitter after splitter after splitter produced a Manny Machado pop-up and a strikeout from Jimmy Paredes, securing the 7-5 win.