BALTIMORE — The fact that the Red Sox finally had a lead was irrelevant. So was the fact that after going 21 innings without stringing together consecutive hits, their offense was churning again.
All Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves was trying to figure out was if the phone to the bullpen still worked.
It was in pieces thanks to David Ortiz. With three violent chops, the Red Sox slugger did a number on it in the seventh inning Saturday night in Camden Yards.
“It rang,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “Somebody called down.”
The outburst had been in the making all night.
On a night when the Sox managed to work themselves out of a rut with a 7-3 win over the Orioles, it seemed like there were as many runs as there were arguments.
It wasn’t just one questionable call. It was a night’s worth.
It was the obscure interpretation of the rule on catcher’s interference in the third inning.
It was the confusion on a Stephen Drew fly ball in the sixth inning, which wasn’t ruled a home run until he had frantically rounded the bases, juked out of a rundown between third and home and scored anyway.
To an extent, it was the lingering confusion from the night before when Sox manager John Farrell came out of the dugout to argue interference by an Orioles base runner late in the Sox 6-0 loss.
“We had some things that were interesting here tonight,” Farrell said.
But everything boiled over in the seventh inning with Ortiz at the plate.
The Sox were leading comfortably, 7-2, after Shane Victorino led off with a homer to right. With one out, Ortiz ran the count to 3-and-0. When Jairo Ascencio whizzed an eye-level fastball on the fourth pitch, Ortiz was more than ready to take his base.
Plate umpire Tim Timmons didn’t give it to him.
From the dugout, Farrell had no doubt.
“It was high,” he said.
Ortiz stayed in the box, but at that point he was one big bottle of aggravation. He looked at another strike and then struck out swinging, and immediately shot Timmons a stare on his way back to the dugout.
Timmons didn’t respond immediately. He let Ortiz walk back to the dugout, barking with every step, putting his hands to his forehead to let Timmons know just how high he thought the pitch was. But at some point, Timmons heard enough, giving Ortiz the boot.
It only threw more gasoline on the situation.
Bat in hand, Ortiz took it out on the phone, going berserk after earning his 10th career ejection.
Ortiz stomped out of the dugout, screaming mad. He had to be restrained by John Farrell and bench coach Torey Lovullo. Even with Farrell corralling him back into the dugout, Ortiz was still fuming.
Not even Dustin Pedroia, who was yelling nose-to-nose with his slugging cleanup hitter, could settle him down.
“Guys get frustrated,” Pedroia said. “Just wanted to make sure David didn’t get too bad.”
As they march to the end of a grueling stretch of 10 AL East games, it felt like a tipping point. In the past week, they went from sitting relatively comfortably atop the American League East to watching the Rays overtake them for first.
With the victory Saturday, the Sox stayed within a half-game of the Rays.
They’ve watched as Matt Moore, David Price and Chris Tillman fired strikes into their lineup like tranquilizers. They managed to find a way to revive their offense, finally seeming to bust some of the slumps that have dragged their lineup down.
Drew led the charge going 3 for 4 with two home runs and five RBIs, which tied a career high.
The second homer, a two-run blast in the sixth inning, went from a garden-variety drive to a full-blown ordeal that needed replay review to settle.
Drew got a hold of a 1-and-0 fastball from Orioles reliever Troy Patton and hit it deep to right. He saw Nick Markakis make a needless leap for it. He saw it ricochet off the wall and bounce back onto the outfield grass.
But he never saw a signal, so he kept running.
“I saw it,” Drew said. “You could see me pointing. Just kind of all around a weird play.”
So did Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was running from first, scrambling when he realized the play was still live.
Drew got caught in a rundown between third and home, but wiggled out of it to score. As soon as he crossed the plate, he was screaming at Timmons, “It went out!”
Amid all the chaos, the Sox’ offense managed to look more like the team that leads the majors in runs scored and less like the one that had been shutout three times in the past nine games.
When Mike Carp and Saltalamacchia came up with back-to-back, two-out singles in the fourth, it was the first time the Sox strung together consecutive hits since the ninth inning of their 6-2 win over the Rays last Tuesday.
Carp’s at-bat was an eight-pitch staredown. He fouled off four of Scott Feldman’s pitches before settling on one he liked and sending it to right field on a parasail.
With 16 pitches under his belt that inning and 67 on his odometer through 3⅔, Feldman was easy picking for Saltalamacchia, who shipped the first pitch he saw to center field.
Two pitches later, Drew shot his first home run of the night into the stands next to the right field scoreboard, giving the Sox a 4-0 lead.
What ended up being a three-run inning had all the ingredients the Sox typically use to hang up bunches of runs — long at-bats, an infield single by Jose Iglesias, and a mound visit by the opposing manager.
“I felt like that inning, we kind of got going with the at-bat that Carp put up,” Farrell said.
It gave starter Ryan Demspter (6-8) more than enough room to work with. He went 5⅓ innings to pick up his first win since June 25.
“He stayed out of the middle of the plate and he used his split effectively,” Farrell said. “He was able to elevate his fastball to some lefthanders to get some fly balls. I think he’s got a feel for how he pitches against this team.’’