Two Red Sox stars, both struggling mightily to start the season, lifted the team to an unusual 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in a game which featured several oddities.
Jon Lester, who entered the contest 0-2 with an unsightly 8.44 ERA, tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his best outing of the season, and David Ortiz homered for the first time in 2010, a moonshot into the Monster seats.
The efforts, combined with a rare walk by Adrian Beltre that forced in the decisive run, gave the Sox their third win in four games following a five-game losing streak.
"[It's taking] everything we have," manager Terry Francona said when asked about the grind the club has gone through to get its last three wins. "It's still not been real pretty. We're making mistakes, we're not making all the plays, but they're not stopping playing."
Almost always self-critical, Lester took the heat for not lasting through the six and allowing four walks. He called it "unacceptable," but still took some comfort in giving his team a chance to win.
"There's still work to be done, but for the most part I thought I threw the ball well," Lester said. "It's a step in the right direction."
He was given an early lead when Ortiz took a 2-1 offering from Jeremy Guthrie over the wall in left for his first home run since Sept. 28. The Sox designated hitter was not around to meet with reporters after the game, but his teammates feel that their big slugger is coming around.
"You can tell he is getting there," said catcher Victor Martinez. "You see his [batting practice]. He is close."
While Lester's solid outing and Ortiz's first home run looked a bit out of place when compared to their seasons thus far, so too did a handful of plays which bucked recent trends.
First of all, Ortiz's blast marked the first time since April 14 in Minnesota that the Sox were the first team to score.
"It's a lot better way to play," Francona said.
Secondly, the Sox actually caught a runner stealing a base, although they needed a pickoff by Lester to do so. It happened in the fifth when Cesar Izturis broke too soon for second base and was nabbed by Lester, breaking a string of 33 straight successful steals against Boston.
Lester left the game with a 3-0 lead, and reliever Daniel Bard stranded three runners to end the sixth. But a two-run homer by Adam Jones in the seventh pulled Baltimore to within 3-2, ending a string of 21 1/3 scoreless innings by the Red Sox bullpen.
That was oddity No. 3.
Later, Julio Lugo, one of the biggest free-agency busts in Red Sox history, entered the game as a pinch runner and scored the tying run.
Then, after a single and two walks loaded the bases for Boston in the bottom of the eighth of a 3-3 game, Beltre took ball four to plate the go-ahead run. It was the second walk of the season for the third baseman and just the 21st in his last 132 games overall.
Talk about a rarity.
Finally, with Boston clinging to its one-run lead in the ninth, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis knocked one off the Green Monster and was headed toward second with just one out. But Bill Hall, who has played sparingly beneath the massive wall and has struggled in his time in the Fenway Park outfield, grabbed the ball on a hop and fired a strike to second to nail the runner.
Moments after the defensive gem, which have been few and far between, Baltimore was done.
That is not a shocker. The Orioles are 2-15 and have never beaten Lester. Even on a night of oddities, even that couldn't happen.