BOSTON (AP) — Baltimore’s lineup looked ready to make the Orioles a spoiler in the AL wild-card race. Their pitching staff just wasn’t up to the challenge Monday night.
Nolan Reimold had three RBIs but the Boston Red Sox roughed up Brian Matusz in an 18-9 victory that salvaged a split of their day-night doubleheader and gave them a two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the wild-card race.
The Orioles scored three times in the first, but Boston got to Matusz (1-8) for four in the bottom half. The left-hander recorded just five outs and was charged with six runs and six hits.
“It’s tough, but I’ve got to keep working and learn from mistakes,” said Matusz, who has failed to complete two innings in three different starts this season. “It will come around. It will happen. It’s just that I have to keep working. I know I have the stuff.”
Matusz led all AL rookies in strikeouts and innings pitched last season, and tied for second in wins with 10. After spending time at Triple-A Norfolk, it hasn’t been much better.
“It’ll come,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get away from it in the offseason. If I know Brian, he’ll take a few weeks and get right back at it. He’s a good kid.”
Jacoby Ellsbury hit an inside-the-park homer and Conor Jackson added a grand slam to cap a much-needed offensive outburst that helped the Red Sox gain the split.
The Orioles won the opener 6-5, sending Boston to its 12th loss in 15 games and trimming its lead over Tampa Bay to 1 1/2 games in the chase for the wild card. The Rays were idle, with a four-game series against the New York Yankees starting Tuesday.
“I know Tampa’s excited about (our effort),” Showalter said.
Night game starter John Lackey fell behind 3-0, but the Red Sox took a 4-3 lead after one, made it 6-3 in the second and 11-5 after three innings. Then Lackey gave up another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth before Scott Atchison (1-0) came on for a one-pitch double play to end the inning.
In all, Atchison pitched to three batters and got two double plays, while also dropping a throw covering first for an error.
Boston slugger Adrian Gonzalez reached base seven straight times in the doubleheader, Marco Scutaro had six hits and Dustin Pedroia drove in five runs on the day. Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer in the nightcap that erased the early deficit and gave the Red Sox the lead for good.
But Lackey still couldn’t get through the fifth. He has allowed 25 earned runs in 24 2-3 innings in his last five starts, with three losses and two no-decisions.
The Red Sox eliminated any doubt with seven runs in the seventh, the first when Ellsbury hit a long fly ball that bounced off the railing of the Red Sox bullpen wall in right-center and caromed toward left field. Two fielders gave chase, but Ellsbury circled the bases and scored standing up.
The next five batters reached safely before Jackson homered over the Green Monster to make it 18-9.
Jeremy Guthrie (9-17) pitched the last-place Orioles to the win in the day game. Robert Andino and Reimold hit back-to-back homers into the Green Monster seats off Kyle Weiland (0-3) as the Orioles, who had been outscored 40-20 at Fenway Park this year, won in Boston for the first time in six games.
The Red Sox winnowed a four-run deficit to 6-4 in the fifth inning and appeared to score another, but David Ortiz’s liner down the right-field line was ruled foul by first-base umpire Mike Estabrook.
Replays showed it caromed off the lower part of a short wall in fair territory near the Pesky Pole.
“That’s the breaks of the game,” Pedroia said. “We’ve played a hundred-something games. We’re not going to say the season’s over because an umpire missed a call.”
Boston, which lost three of four games against Tampa Bay last weekend, led the Rays by nine on Sept 3. The Red Sox have dropped 15 of 20 since they held a 1 1/2-game edge over New York atop the AL East on Aug. 30.
The Red Sox have six games remaining against Baltimore and three in New York against the Yankees. The Rays have 10 to play, seven of them against the Yankees.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)