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Must C Crushed: Ortiz smashes a homer to Eutaw Street

BALTIMORE -- They were short on manpower for Monday night's game against the Orioles, but not on offensive artillery or grit.

The Red Sox are coming together as a team at the most ideal time.

Without Cody Ross (fractured navicular bone in left foot) and Ryan Sweeney (residual effects from collision), manager Bobby Valentine still pieced together a lineup that belted out 14 hits en route to an 8-6 victory over the Orioles.

The typical drill for Valentine of late is to take inventory in the pregame hours to determine who he has at his disposal, and whatever starting nine he puts out there seems to produce.

"That's the attitude I think I have and I think [general manager Ben Cherington] has, we have it collectively," said Valentine. "Hells bells, we've had it. This isn't a new concept. [Jacoby] Ellsbury went down and we started having new lineups. [Kevin Youkilis] went down, new lineup. Yeah, we'll have a new lineup tomorrow. That's probably one of the only things I know."

Boston has reeled off nine wins in its last 11 games to pull even (21-21) for the second time this season, and first since April 30.

"We're going to play hard every night," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We're playing good ball as of late. We just have to keep it going. We've got guys down. We know that. We have other guys that can step right in and perform well and help us win a lot of games."

The hits came from all over the lineup in this one.

Mike Aviles and Pedroia set the table with two hits each. David Ortiz hit a titanic solo home run.

Will Middlebrooks, who now seems primed to stick around for a bit even with Youkilis likely to return on Tuesday, came through with three hits.

Daniel Nava, who has come up huge at a time when the outfield is depleted, added two more hits. And Che-Hsuan Lin, who made his first Major League start, came through with his first career hit, a single in the eighth.

"Hey, this is a tough group," Valentine said. "When everyone is contributing, I think it helps pull the team together. You know, I've never seen this team feel sorry for itself, so I'm not worried about that."

The offensive outburst helped the Red Sox overcome a shaky start by Clay Buchholz, who lost the momentum he had built in his two previous outings. The righty gave up six hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings, walking four and striking out two. Buchholz took a no-decision and has a 7.84 ERA.

As has been the habit for Buchholz this season, he had one glaringly bad inning, giving up four runs in the second, two of which he forced in with walks.

"I felt good. I felt like everything was there," Buchholz said. "Good curveball again, changeup was good, fastball location left me that inning and then it sort of came back. I was able to throw strikes with a fastball. That's all it's been all year -- one big inning. I've got to find a way to get out of it, giving up two runs instead of four. It keeps the team in the game."

Lefty Andrew Miller, who got Buchholz out of a jam in the sixth, earned the win in relief. When Miller came on, the game was tied and there were runners on first and second with one out.

"Honestly, I'm not treating it any different than any other situation," said Miller, who turned 27 on Monday and boasts a 0.00 ERA in eight games since being activated off the disabled list May 6. "I'm going to come in and be as aggressive as I can. The first guy came in and swung at the first pitch. I threw a good fastball and was able to get an out right away, and that's kind of a relief. Really, just being aggressive and attacking hitters as much as I can is the key."

Miller wasn't the only Boston reliever to come up big. Once again, Vicente Padilla came to the rescue.

Valentine's plan was for Rich Hill to pitch the eighth. But the lefty gave up three straight hits, and the Orioles trimmed the deficit to 8-6.

With runners at second and third and one out, on came Padilla. He got a flyout and a strikeout, and has prevented all 15 runners he's inherited from scoring this season.

"He takes it so personally, that it's somebody else's run out there," Valentine said. "It's incredible. You know, he said he's been on the other end when his runs were given up. He really does take it as a personal situation, which is wonderful."

For the Red Sox, it was their first game in Baltimore since Sept. 28, 2011, when their epic September collapse culminated. And it was their first game against the first-place Orioles since enduring a three-game sweep at Fenway, May 4-6.

Trailing 5-2 after five, Ortiz started the surge back by unloading for a solo homer to right that landed on Eutaw Street to start the sixth.

It was the 62nd Eutaw Street long ball in the history of Camden Yards, and the second by Big Papi.

"I thought David's home run really uplifted us," Valentine said. "It was such a power stroke."

Adrian Gonzalez followed with an opposite-field double and Middlebrooks put runners on the corners with a single. Nava's sacrifice fly brought home Gonzalez, putting the Red Sox within one. Boston tied it when Orioles starter Tommy Hunter balked home Middlebrooks.

"The last inning was very frustrating," Hunter said. "I left the ball up to Ortiz. Then a double, Adrian Gonzalez stayed inside the ball and put it inside the left-field line. He's a good hitter. It's just one of those things. A single scored that run, then I had a stupid, stupid play I let happen."

Back came the Sox again in the seventh, this time against reliever Kevin Gregg. After a one-out single by Aviles and a double by Pedroia, the Orioles intentionally walked Ortiz. Gonzalez gave Boston the lead with a sacrifice fly to left. Middlebrooks added insurance with an RBI single up the middle.

It was Lin who got things going in the eighth with that first career hit -- a two-out single to left. Aviles wound up reaching on a strikeout and passed ball, and then Pedroia smoked an RBI single to left, scoring Lin.

"We've won a lot of games lately," Pedroia said. "It's a good sign. We've just got to keep it going."

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