The Boston Red Sox returned to Fenway Park and returned to their winning ways.
Brad Penny scattered five hits over 6 1-3 innings to help Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Friday night and improve to 32-14 at Fenway – the best home record in the majors. The Red Sox are 24-25 on the road after a five-game losing streak that turned their 2 1/2-game lead in the AL East into a 2 1/2-game deficit behind the New York Yankees.
Boston has beaten Baltimore 10 straight times at the Fens, where they’ve sold out 515 games in a row.
“They give you a little more energy,” Penny (7-4) said after improving to 5-1 at home this season. “If you can’t feel good here, you can’t feel good anywhere.”
Penny allowed just one unearned run, striking out four and walking none for his first victory since June 17. He lowered his ERA at home to 4.02, compared to 5.51 on the road, a performance that might help him stay in Boston beyond next week’s trade deadline.
“I’ve had Penny in my office numerous times telling him how much we like him,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, shooting down talk that Penny could be trade bait if the team winds up with a surplus of pitchers. “I just wanted to reassure him that’s not how we felt. We weren’t cleaning him up to get rid of him.”
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth, earning his 25th save in 27 tries despite putting runners on first and third with nobody out and then loading the bases for Luke Scott with one out. Scott struck out on three pitches, then Melvin Mora whiffed on a full count to end the game.
“Papelbon came up with some big pitches,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “We had the middle of our lineup up, some very good at-bats, but didn’t break through.”
Nolan Reimold had three hits and a walk and scored the Orioles‘ only run as they fell to 1-15 on the road against division opponents this season – 2-26 dating to 2008. Brad Bergesen (6-5) gave up three runs on nine hits and three walks, striking out five in six innings as Baltimore lost to Boston for the 10th time in 11 games.
“I think he’s a keeper,” Trembley said. “I think he’s a major league pitcher, and he showed it tonight. … We didn’t do enough for him offensively.”
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia each had a pair of hits for Boston and helped Penny out in the field. Pedroia made a diving stop on Aubrey Huff‘s fourth-inning grounder to second and scampered to his feet to make the throw to first in time.
Ellsbury made a diving catch on Adam Jones‘ sinking liner in the third. The Red Sox leadoff hitter also had his 42nd stolen base, and was deprived of a triple only because his long fly to deep center in the sixth bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
Ellsbury tried to score on Pedroia’s single, but Nick Markakis threw him out at the plate. It was Markakis’ major league-leading 11th outfield assist of the season.
“If he’s not one of the best right fielders in the American League, then somebody’s living in a dream world somewhere,” Trembley said.
Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the second on Mora’s sacrifice fly. J.D. Drew singled to lead off the fourth for Boston, went to third on Mike Lowell‘s double and scored on Jason Varitek‘s single. Jed Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly to score Lowell and make it 2-0.
Drew’s hit snapped an 0-for-24 slump. He also had an RBI groundout in the fifth to make it 3-1.
The Red Sox added 1B Adam LaRoche, acquired from Pittsburgh on Wednesday, to the roster and designated 1B-OF Mark Kotsay for assignment. … Francona met with Daisuke Matsuzaka for 90 minutes. The injured RHP is not ready for mound work. … RHP Tim Wakefield had a cortisone shot and could be throwing on flat ground as early as Monday.