Fresh start to September for Red Sox

Fresh start to September for Red Sox

BOSTON -- It certainly wasn't the equivalent of Clay Buchholz's no-hitter when the Red Sox and Orioles met exactly one year ago. But the way balls were flying in the cool Boston air on Monday, neither starter had much of a chance matching such a feat.

Much to Sox starter Paul Byrd's chagrin, the balls popped off the bat with enough force to send a fly-ball pitcher's offerings far enough no one could bring them back.

"I think I gave up one of the longest home runs in Fenway history," Byrd mused. "I don't know if it bounced off the Citgo sign or not."

Instead, it came down to persistence. The right-hander scattered four runs in four separate innings as he put in seven total as Boston took the first of a three-game set with Baltimore, 6-4.

A year ago, Buchholz blanked the O's in the runs and hits column while striking out nine. This time around, the veteran Byrd made his mistakes. But in the end, it came down to minimizing damage and giving Boston a chance to win.

"When he made a mistake or two, they hit him a long way," manager Terry Francona said of Byrd's homers allowed, all solo shots. "But then he made his pitches, and he was pretty good."

Adam Jones wasted little time showing the sellout crowd at Fenway Park what was in store for them on this night. Jones crushed a Byrd fastball up and over the seats above the Green Monster -- prompting Byrd's Citgo sign comment -- in the game's second at-bat, giving the visitors a quick 1-0 lead.

"I'm not happy about that," Byrd said. "I thought I was throwing the ball really well. I'd throw nine or 10 good pitches, and then I'd leave one over the plate."

It was the first of five long balls in the contest, all given up by the starters. But Byrd wasn't the only victim, as Orioles starter Garrett Olson would find out shortly.

Jason Varitek and Jeff Bailey launched back-to-back homers in the second, briefly giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead on just three pitches to lead off the frame.

Bailey has played 28 games for the Sox this season, making four trips to and from Triple-A Pawtucket in the process. But it was Bailey's second homer of the year, and his second in the past three games. He hit a solo shot off Mark Buerhle in an 8-2 win over Chicago on Saturday.

"It feels good; just go out there and let it go," Bailey said. "Not be too tentative. Just play like I did down in Triple-A."

The lead wouldn't last long, as the home run bug would strike Byrd again in the third. Juan Castro, an unlikely long ball threat, laced his second homer of the year and drew the score even. Castro would score in the sixth on an RBI single by Nick Markakis, putting the Orioles in the lead at 3-2 and threatening to add on.

After an Aubrey Huff double, Baltimore had two runners in scoring position with two outs. Byrd forced a Luke Scott pop out to end the threat.

"He did a good job -- he kept us in the game, and he got us through seven innings," Varitek said of Byrd. "When we got the lead again, he held the lead for good. It was big."

Second to none
With two hits Monday, Dustin Pedrioa set a new Red Sox record for hits in a season by a second baseman.
Player
Hits
Year
Dustin Pedroia1852008
Del Pratt1831922
Mark Loretta1812006
Marty Barrett1791986
Jerry Remy1781982

Getting out of the sixth proved crucial. In the bottom of the frame, Boston brought home four in the bottom of the frame -- highlighted by Jed Lowrie's RBI double and a two-run single by the red-hot Dustin Pedroia.

The pair of middle infielders did their part yet again, seemingly being the catalysts for Boston's success over the past four weeks. Lowrie shot a double off the Green Monster, scoring Jason Bay.

"It was a big inning for us," Pedroia said. "I think we kind of came out a little flat."

With two outs and two on, Pedroia walked to the plate. And with a 1-2 count, Pedroia extended his bat and laced a liner to right field, extending the lead to 6-3.

"[Dennis Sarfate] comes in throwing 95 probably off the plate, Pedey's going one way and the bat heads going another and he hits a bullet to right," Francona said. "He just has an amazing knack to get the barrel of the bat on the ball."

The lead was more then enough for Byrd, who methodically worked through the Orioles' lineup for his 10th win on the season. He pitched seven innings and allowed the four runs on seven hits for his third win with Boston and his first at Fenway Park.

And even though he gave up a third home run -- to Kevin Millar in the seventh -- no one in the Red Sox's clubhouse was fazed. Byrd did exactly what he was brought in to do -- eat innings and give the team a chance to win.

"He's been awesome," Pedroia said. "He attacks the zone, he gives us a lot of innings. He always keeps us in the ballgames, and that's all you can ask out of a starting pitcher."

Byrd, happy with helping the team win, relished his first win at Fenway with the Sox by lauding his teammates performance.

"I asked them to pick me up in the dugout, and they did," Byrd said. "The whole team plays really hard. It's just an absolute blast and privilege to be around players who play the game the way they do."

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.