Gonzalez and Red Sox rally to beat Orioles
Fenway Park was not even half full when Adrian Gonzalez walked to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning last night. Raw, rainy weather and a six-run deficit against the Orioles had sent most of the fans scurrying for the streets.
They missed witnessing one of the victories that could come to define the season.
Gonzalez drove a two-run double off the wall in left field that gave the Red Sox a stunning 8-7 victory on a night when all seemed lost.
“You never give up. You always have to attack no matter what the score is,’’ said Alfredo Aceves, who allowed one run over three innings of relief to get the win. “Adrian is one of the top guys in the league. I’m glad to be playing with him. I think every single guy on the team likes to be with him.’’
Gonzalez finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs. He is hitting .327 and has driven in 37 runs, the most in baseball.
“This is a lot of fun right now,’’ he said. “I love playing the game every night. But these nights are special.’’
That’s four wins in a row and victories in seven of the last nine games for the Sox, who moved into a three-way tie for second place in the American League East.
With the Sox down by a run, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk off Kevin Gregg. The Baltimore closer then got ahead of struggling Dustin Pedroia 0-and-2. But in typical fashion, Pedroia would not give in and walked on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
“When the game’s on the line, I don’t care what his batting average is, you’re going to get one of the best at-bats there is,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He proved it again.’’
As Gonzalez watched Pedroia work Gregg over — “Those at-bats drain a pitcher,’’ he said — he told himself to be ready for a strike on the first pitch.
“He likes to get ahead on the outer half with certain pitches,’’ said Gonzalez, who has put in time studying AL pitchers after spending the previous five years of his career in the National League with San Diego. “He threw me a slider, one of those get-me-over sliders, and I was able to put a good swing on it.’’
Pedroia, running hard all the way, scored before the Orioles could get the ball to the plate.
“There’s something to be said for just keep continuing to play,’’ Francona said. “We got to hit last and we had a really good hitter up at the plate.’’
The Sox returned from New York in the early hours of yesterday morning having swept three games from the Yankees and reached .500 for the first time this season. Gonzalez believed those games helped lead to the unlikely comeback last night.
“Those kind of streaks, they do continue on,’’ he said. “I don’t think it’s something you feed off of. But you know that you’ve been playing the game good and when you’ve been playing the game good, things like this happen.
“We never put our heads down, we just continue to grind it out.’’
The Sox had fallen behind, 6-0, after another disappointing performance by Daisuke Matsuzaka. He allowed five runs on five hits and seven walks over 4 1/3 innings. “That’s a lot of baserunners,’’ Francona said. “We’re probably lucky there weren’t more runs.’’
Matsuzaka was brilliant in back-to-back starts against the Blue Jays and Angels in April, throwing 15 shutout innings. He has reverted back to untrustworthiness since, allowing 12 runs on 16 hits and 14 walks over 15 1/3 innings.
“We’re going to sit and talk to him a little bit to try and figure out more what’s going on because it didn’t look completely right,’’ Francona said.
After five shutout innings by Orioles starter Chris Tillman, the Sox sent 10 batters to the plate in the sixth and scored five runs against three relievers.
Facing Mike Gonzalez, J.D. Drew singled and took second when the ball skipped past Luke Scott in left. Jed Lowrie followed with an RBI double. After Carl Crawford reached on an error, Jason Varitek lined an RBI single to right.
With two outs and Jeremy Accardo pitching, Gonzalez singled in a run. Kevin Youkilis then doubled in two more with a drive off the wall. He has eight RBIs in his last five games.
The Sox scored another run in the seventh off Jim Johnson when Lowrie tripled to center and Varitek had another RBI single. That drew them close enough to make quick work of Baltimore in the ninth.
The comeback was the largest for the Sox since they rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat the Yankees, 16-11, April 25, 2009. “It’s been fun lately. Pedroia said. “We’re climbing, man. We’re going to get on the elevator and just go.’’
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.