BALTIMORE — Perhaps all the Red Sox needed to snap out of their funk was to have their brass make a surprise appearance for a 6-3 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards on Thursday night.
Playing before a crowd of 25,843, which included principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president/CEO Larry Lucchino, who dropped in on their fast-fading team after attending the owners meetings in Denver, the Sox averted a three-game sweep after breaking a 3-3 stalemate with a three-run sixth.
Afterward, Henry, Werner, and Lucchino waited to board the elevator to take them from the fourth-floor level of the press box to the visitors’ clubhouse. When the doors parted, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette got out and bumped into the trio and exchanged quick pleasantries.
On the ride down, when it was suggested the mere presence of ownership was all the motivation the Sox needed, Lucchino chuckled, “Yeah, to scare the [expletive] out of them.’’
“It was great that they were here,’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “They said they were bringing us luck.’’
But when the Orioles jumped on starter Clay Buchholz for a pair of runs in the first to take a 2-0 lead, “I was going to ask [them] for an early flight out,’’ Valentine joked.
Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Cody Ross sparked the sixth-inning outburst with consecutive RBI singles off reliever Luis Ayala. It gave Buchholz (11-3) a three-run lead after he went eight innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven — including all three in the sixth on nine pitches.
“He brought the competitive spirit to a new level tonight, I thought,’’ Valentine said. “They were jumping on his early pitches and when he saw the resiliency we had in our offense, he shut the door and shut it quick.’’
The Sox (58-61) won for only the fourth time in 12 games against the Orioles this season and are six games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild-card berth.
Next stop: New York for a three-game weekend series against the division-leading Yankees.
“It’s a lot better train ride,’’ said Valentine.
The Orioles roughed up Buchholz for a pair of runs in the first on Adam Jones’s two-run double to right that scored Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy, who led off with back-to-back singles.
“They hit a couple of balls hard early on, some of them found holes, and it’s frustrating when that happens,’’ Buchholz said. “But the guys were able to get some offense together and score a couple of runs and everything else worked out.’’
The Sox came back in the second when Nick Punto drew a two-out walk from Orioles starter Chris Tillman. Punto went to second on a wild pitch to Pedro Ciriaco, who rifled a ground single past shortstop to put Punto at third.
Center fielder Scott Podsednik, hitting out of the No. 9 spot, slapped a single to center that scored Punto to pull the Sox within 2-1.
Buchholz, however, gave the run back when Mark Reynolds hit a first-pitch solo homer to right field, giving Baltimore a 3-1 cushion.
“I was real impressed with the offense,’’ said Valentine, noting Boston’s 13-hit attack. “It would’ve been real easy to mail that one in after your ace gives up two, and then you score and he gives up a home run on the first pitch of the next inning. But they kept coming.’’
Manny Machado smashed a double to left and Omar Quintanilla drew a walk. Markakis then dropped a bunt in front of home plate, but wound up grounding into a double play.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia alertly fielded the ball and fired to third for the force out on Machado, and Punto doubled up Markakis at first.
Buchholz got out of the inning when Ross fielded Hardy’s sharp single to right and fired home to Saltalamacchia, who tagged out Quintanilla.
“It’s one of those plays that you practice your whole life,’’ Ross said. “It just ended up being perfect. I fielded it cleanly, my exchange was good, and I threw it up the line a little bit, but Salty made a great play and a great tag.’’
Buchholz benefited from a defense that produced double plays in three consecutive innings, which enabled him to keep the Sox in the game.
But when the Sox rallied for a pair of runs that tied it, 3-3, in the fifth, which chased Tillman from the game, it was all the impetus Buchholz needed.
After Jacoby Ellsbury flew out to left, Carl Crawford (2 for 5, 2 runs, 1 double, 2 RBIs) singled to center to reach on his third at-bat. Pedroia, who afterward left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters, extended his hitting streak to 11 games when he doubled to center, moving Crawford to third.Continued...