Not the easiest way to wrap up what had been a somewhat disappointing homestand against two last-place teams. The Red Sox entered the Thursday afternoon matinee with a record of 3-3 on the seven-game homestand -- 2-1 against the Orioles, in last place in the American League East and 1-2 against the A's, in last place in the AL West.
It had already been an eventful week for the Red Sox. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rehabbing a shoulder strain at the team's complex in Fort Myers, Fla., made headlines earlier in the week with complaints about the team's training regimen, which he refuted in a written statement released during Thursday's game. The trade rumors have been swirling around the team as the 4 p.m. ET Friday Trade Deadline approaches. And now this.
"It hasn't been dull, that's for sure," said manager Terry Francona. "We'll get through whatever we're supposed to get through. If I sit up here and complain about being tired or stressed, that would be an excuse that I don't think is tolerated. As a team we always talk about working through frustration and how our season will be defined by that. That's because we believe in that."
The players, to a man, said they were not distracted by the news.
"No, I wasn't distracted," Dustin Pedroia said. "We weren't talking about it. We're having enough problems right now to try to win games to worry about other things. So, I think we're all trying to win a ball game."
Boston's offense, batting just .242 (186-for-770) in July entering Thursday's game, had begun to pick up steam, hitting .298 in the first six games of the homestand, but was mostly quiet on the afternoon -- until the seventh inning.
Boston got a lone run in the second inning. Jason Bay led off with a walk and went to third on Ortiz's double. After a walk to J.D. Drew, Bay scored on Jason Varitek's single to right for a 1-0 lead. But the Red Sox could do no further damage, leaving the bases loaded as Nick Green and Jacoby Ellsbury struck out swinging on A's starter Gio Gonzalez's curveball.
Jon Lester made the slim margin work for a time, holding the A's scoreless through five innings. But in the sixth, he loaded the bases with A's, giving up a one-out walk to Orlando Cabrera, a single to Nomar Garciaparra, followed by a walk to Jack Cust. Cabrera scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Tommy Everidge, who made his Major League debut Tuesday, tying the game at 1. Bobby Crosby's double to center drove in Garciaparra, and Rajai Davis' single to center brought home Cust and Crosby.
After a walk to the next batter, Ryan Sweeney, Lester's day was done, with the A's leading, 4-1.
Manny Delcarmen entered, walking Landon Powell before getting Adam Kennedy, the 10th batter of the inning, on a fielder's choice to Pedroia.
Lester went 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts. His outing ended his streak of allowing three earned runs or fewer in his past 10 starts since May 31.
"Jonny was good," Varitek said. "He just had an inning
where some things just didn't go his way. The ball Rajai hit was off the handle, and if that ball's caught, we're at minimal damage with a two-run game.
"We had the leadoff walk. I think that was the biggest component, and then he made a good pitch with two strikes to Cust and didn't get the call, and that leads to a walk rather than sitting there with two outs. But I still think he continued to make pitches. [He] threw a cutter in to Everidge, [who] hits a sac fly, and he continued to make pitches. The only real bad pitch he made was the curveball he hung 0-2 to Crosby."
The Red Sox came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning, as Ortiz, who walked, scored on Mike Lowell's ground-rule double to left. With Gonzalez departing for reliever Russ Springer, Lowell took third on Drew's fly out to center, scoring on Varitek's single to right, to bring Boston within a run, 4-3.
But the A's extended their lead in the seventh. Garciaparra singled to right and was replaced by pinch-runner Eric Patterson, who stole second and scored on Everidge's single to center, putting Oakland up, 5-3.
With the Red Sox trailing by two runs in the inning, Ortiz came to bat with two outs and Youkilis on second base and Lowell on first. Ortiz turned on the fourth pitch from left-hander Craig Breslow -- the A's fourth pitcher of the afternoon, who had entered the game to face the slugger -- and deposited the 2-1 fastball into the bleachers behind Boston's dugout in center field for a 6-5 lead.
"I don't think anything is bigger than the home run David hit," said Varitek. "Because that kind of just changed the momentum that this team has had for the last so many games. [It] woke up the crowd -- woke up the team, because our big fella just hit probably our biggest home run we've had so far."
As cheers rained down, Ortiz (2-for-3, two runs scored, three RBIs) popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Gonzalez lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks. He had eight strikeouts in his outing, setting down seven Red Sox batters swinging on his curveball.
Boston added two runs in the eighth, as Drew singled and scored on Varitek's double to left-center, with Varitek, who went to third on Jed Lowrie's ground out, scoring on Ellsbury's sacrifice fly, for the final margin.
Delcarmen got the win, improving his record to 3-2, while Jonathan Papelbon got his 26th save. Breslow was charged with his first blown save and and the loss (4-5).
But it was Ortiz whose blast made the most noise on the afternoon.