BALTIMORE — As former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan was fond of saying: 6, 2 and even.
The Red Sox evened their 2014 record at 1-1 after a 6-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards Wednesday night behind the strong starting pitching of John Lackey and the big bat of first baseman Mike NAPoli — not NaPOLi, Mr. President.
Napoli’s two-run single extended the Red Sox lead to 6-2 in the top of the seventh inning, and that lead would hold up. Right fielder Daniel Nava led off the inning with a single, then Dustin Pedroia — who had four hits on the night — followed with a soft ground ball to Orioles third baseman Ryan Flaherty who committed an error on the throw to first base allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Reliever Ryan Webb then intentionally walked David Ortiz, and Napoli made the Orioles pay as the Sox first baseman belted a line drive two-RBI base hit scoring Nava and Pedroia and giving him four RBIs on the night.
“I thought the top four guys in our lineup had a pretty good night, particularly Pedey and Nap,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “Big night for both of those guys.”
Napoli was asked about his mindset, stepping up to the plate after the intentional walk to get to him.
“In that situation, you’ve got one out with the bases loaded so I’m just trying to hit a fly ball to get the run in and just happened to get a base hit,” he said. “That’s extra so it’s nice to come through in that situation. It’s going to happen. They’re not going to give in to [Ortiz] , they’re gonna make me beat you so to come through in those situations is nice.”
In the fifth inning, Napoli homered on an 0-2 pitch from Orioles starter Ubaldo Jiminez to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. Nava, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, came in on the two-run shot by the burly Red Sox first baseman.
“Yeah it’s nice,” Napoli said regarding the 0-2 homer. “In that situation I’m just trying to shorten up and put the ball in play but I take an aggressive swing always so I got a pitch I can handle and put a pretty good swing on it.”
Last season, Napoli tied for the MLB lead with six games with at least 4 RBIs.
Lackey was cruising along into the fourth inning before Game 1 Orioles star Nelson Cruz crushed his second home run of the season with Chris Davis aboard to tie the game at 2-2.
“Threw a bunch of heaters,” Lackey said in talking about the first few innings. “Playing country hardball there for the first few innings. Then after that started mixing in some stuff, made the one mistake and felt pretty good overall.”
In the top of the third, Ortiz crushed a Jiminez pitch way over the wall in right field for his first home run of the season with Pedroia aboard to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead that wouldn’t hold up for long.
“I keep on telling you guys, Fort Myers to me is just like is a time to forget about the bad things and just prepare for the season,” Ortiz said regarding his blast.
The deep blast was Ortiz’s 432d career home run, passing Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr.  for sole possession of 45th place on the all-time MLB career home run list.
“I was tied with the Iron Man? That’s crazy,” Ortiz said when told of the feat. “Talking about a man that never missed a game out there. It’s always an honor to myself to get mentioned with that caliber of a player when it comes down to numbers, it’s good.”
Ortiz was asked if he thought he could get to 500 homers before he calls it a career.
“Still playing, got chances,” he said. “It seems like that’s the magic number for everyone so we’ll see. I’m not thinking about that right now, just trying to have fun and play the game and try to keep on winning… The biggest problem we have through the years is injuries. Injuries is the one thing that we gotta battle every year but hopefully knock on wood, we’ll stay healthy all year round and see what we are capable to do.”
Ortiz was also asked if the homer would cool down the selfie talk back in Boston.
“Hopefully,” he said. “Like I said before, taking a picture with the president is something you don’t see happening every day.”
So then naturally Ortiz was asked if anyone sponsored his home run in Game 2: “The Sox,” he replied. “They paid for it, a lot of money.”
The inning prior, Pedroia made a spectacular defensive play when he dove into the hole directly behind second base and threw out Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy from his knees to end the second inning.
“We’re just trying to get outs,” Pedroia said. “Lack’s out there pounding the zone with strikes so any chance you can get a glove on it, try to make a play, we’re gonna try to do that. When I dove, my knee stuck in the ground so I could just spin and I just threw it as hard as I can.”
After giving up a leadoff single to Nick Markakis, Lackey retired the next 11 batters, getting four O’s to strike out, before the Orioles rallied to get on the board.
Lackey’s night ended after six innings of solid work. He threw 90 pitches, 68 for strikes, giving up just three hits and two runs on the Cruz homer, walking one and striking out six Orioles.
“Felt pretty good, especially being the first one,” Lackey said. “I still think I’ve got some arm strength to build up. Could take a month or so to get it up to 100 percent. For the first one, I felt pretty good about it…
“I always try to work pretty quick especially when you’re throwing strikes and feeling pretty good about it. A.J. called a great game, that helps a lot with tempo. I don’t have to think too much about what pitch you want to throw when he’s throwing the No. 1 looking for it, things kind of roll pretty good.”
Farrell was impressed with Lackey’s effort and said he saw it coming with his last start in spring training.
“His last outing in spring training was similar to tonight,” Farrell said. “I thought the first three innings he was as good as we’ve seen him at any point in time. They extended him in the fourth inning for the 35-pitch inning but he was able to go through the final couple of innings and turn it over to the bullpen and three quality innings of work out of those guys.”
Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica made his debut with Boston tonight, he worked the seventh inning, giving up a single and recording a strike out before being replaced by Junichi Tazawa, who pitched a scoreless eighth. Closer extraordinaire Koji Uehara came on to finish off the Orioles in the ninth in a non-save situation. Uehara would finish the game working out of a jam with two runners on base, but closed things out and the Red Sox came away with the win.