Red Sox end losing streak
ATLANTA — No one or two players can be blamed for a 10-game losing streak. Baseball doesn’t work that way.
But as each day passed and the ditch got deeper, the lack of production from David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia was becoming glaring for the Red Sox.
The two best hitters on the team had driven in one run during the streak and were rarely getting on base. The Sox needed leadership from them in the form of production.
“Everybody looks at us, we’re the guys that have been creating the offense around here for a while,” Ortiz said.
With the Sox down by five runs Monday and on the verge of another wrenching loss, Ortiz and Pedroia were there to lead them out of the woods. The duo drove in six runs, five in the fifth inning, as the Red Sox rallied to beat the Atlanta Braves, 8-6.
“It was nice for them to come up in those situations. They did what great players do,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
The players were more relieved than celebratory after the game. The many Sox fans in the Turner Field crowd of 48,501 made up for that, creating a festive atmosphere.
“I felt like I was at Fenway,” Ortiz said.
Pedroia and Ortiz did most of their damage against Braves starter Ervin Santana in the fifth inning. Determined at-bats ahead of them created the opportunity.
With the Sox trailing, 6-1, Daniel Nava, down 0 and 2 in the count, worked a walk with two outs. Brock Holt, who has hit safely in seven straight games, doubled before Xander Bogaerts walked to load the bases.
Pedroia, down 0 and 2, cracked a single to left and two runs scored.
“I hadn’t done much good of anything. But that will turn, you have to believe that,” Pedroia said. “The hit extended the inning and the at-bats before were the reason we got to that point. Getting to David is what we want to do.”
Ortiz went the other way with a slider on the outside corner, driving it over the wall for his 12th home run.
Ortiz had not driven in a run since May 14 against the Twins, not coincidentally the last game the Red Sox had won. He has 443 career home runs, moving past Dave Kingman into 39th place all time.
The Sox took the lead in the seventh inning against lefthanded reliever Ian Thomas after a rain delay of 1 hour and 26 minutes.
Holt reached on an infield single, beating Thomas to first when he was late covering the base. Bogaerts and Pedroia walked to load the bases for Ortiz, who came through with a sacrifice fly to right field. With two outs, Pierzynski singled up the middle to drive in Bogaerts.
Ortiz and Pedroia were 12 of 75 (.160) during the losing streak. They were on base five times Monday.
“The outcome is correctly correlated to their performance,” manager John Farrell said. “That’s not to put it all on them because we had a lot of good at-bats all the way up and down the lineup. But they being in the middle of the lineup, their contributions are key to us.”
The victory came despite another wretched performance by Clay Buchholz, who allowed six runs and walked a career-high eight before being lifted with no outs in the fourth inning.
The eight walks were the most for a Red Sox pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka — who else? — walked eight May 27, 2010.
On Sunday, Farrell said Buchholz had worked on correcting a delivery flaw and better performance was expected. General manager Ben Cherington voiced similar optimism before the game.
But Buchholz got worse, throwing only 42 of 88 pitches for strikes.
The Braves, trailing 1-0, sent nine batters to the plate in the third inning and scored three runs. Justin Upton had a two-run double after Buchholz walked Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Gerald Laird added an RBI single.
Buchholz, who threw 75 pitches in the first three innings, was left in for the fourth inning. He walked Heyward for the third time before B.J. Upton doubled to drive him in. When Freeman also walked for the third time, Farrell finally lifted Buchholz.
In his last four starts, Buchholz has allowed 19 earned runs on 33 hits and 15 walks over 18 innings. His 7.02 earned run average is the highest in the major leagues among qualified pitchers.
“It’s not fun, I know that,” Buchholz said.
In 50 innings this season, Buchholz has put 99 runners on base via hit or walk. Farrell would not commit to Buchholz making his next start, which would be Saturday against Tampa Bay.
“We’ve got to look at this a little bit closer. There’s no determination on five days from now,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to continue to talk about what he’s currently going through and what’s best for him and certainly what’s best for us.”
Six relievers each pitched a scoreless inning. Edward Mujica (2-1) was the winner with Koji Uehara getting his 10th save.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of something good,” Ortiz said.
Pedroia, as you would expect, was more confident.
“We’ve got a long way to go, a lot of games,” he said. “We can win 10 as easily as we could lose 10. Guys are going to keep fighting.”