If there was a sign that times had changed between the Red Sox and the Orioles, it came during Boston’s trip to Baltimore in July.
The Red Sox, at 41-27, had the best record in the American League, riding a stretch of nine wins in 13 games.
But the Orioles were in sniffing distance, just 2½ games back in the division.
As they took the field for batting practice, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones made sure to find David Ortiz, his friend and his rival.
He had a message.
“This isn’t Fenway South anymore,” he said.
The Sox were more than aware.
For the better part of the past two years, the Orioles have dominated the Red Sox, wining 25 of the last 37 games. They nailed Boston’s coffin shut at the end of an unhinged 2011 season, they shoveled dirt on them as they lay dormant a year ago, and even this season, with the Sox finding new life, the Orioles found a way to continue to be Boston’s one nagging pain, going 6-4 against them coming into a three-game series that started Tuesday night.
In fact, they had watched the Orioles turn their own ballpark into Camden, going 12-4 in Boston.
Coming off a West Coast trip and staring down the barrel of a nine-game home stand, starting that run with their most maddening division rival underscored how important the final stretch of the season will be for a team trying to preserve their lead in the AL East.
The Red Sox have more remaining against the Orioles (eight) than anyone else.
“This is going to be a hard fought series,” manager John Farrell said before his club clubbed the Orioles, 13-2. “We know that coming into this.”
Backed by Shane Victorino driving in a career-high seven runs and launching two home runs into the Monster seats, Mike Napoli launching one clean over the Wall and onto the roof of the parking deck across the street, and Felix Doubront giving up two runs on four hits in 6⅔ innings, the Sox rolled.
Early on, when control issues got to Doubront and he found himself in a bases loaded situation with no outs in the third inning, it seemed like the Orioles would again be as troublesome.
Doubront walked Brian Roberts with the bases loaded but was then able to manage the crisis, giving up sacrifice fly to Manny Machado, but then getting home run leader Chris Davis to pop up to short and striking out Jones.
At that point the Sox were down, 2-1.
Whether they could lean on an offense that came in hitting just .208 against the Orioles this season was the question.
Victorino answered in the bottom of the inning, with Jacoby Ellsbury on base, by shooting a ball over the Monster to put the Sox ahead.
An inning later, Mike Napoli smacked his 17th homer.
It was the first of several blows that would ultimately knock Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen out of the game after just 3⅔ innings.
When Dustin Pedroia hammered a line drive to right that hopped over the fence for a two-run ground rule double, Chen’s night was done but the Sox weren’t.
Jonny Gomes added a double of his own, dotting the center-field wall right at the 379-foot marker to score two more.
If there was a scoring opportunity to cash in on, the Sox did, going 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
The top of the order, which had struggled against the Orioles all season (Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia were a combined 22 for 114 coming in) went 9 for 13 with eight runs scored and nine RBIs.