The Red Sox and Orioles combined for one run in the first seven innings and nine more in the eighth Friday night, somehow turning a duel into a demolition derby. Baltimore fell behind by four runs and tied things up in the eighth, then took over in the ninth to take a wild 6-5 win that many said can serve as a statement to the rest of the baseball world.
"It's one of the best wins I've ever been a part of," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who scored the winning run. "It's one that you just don't expect. You believe that you can win every game no matter what the score is and no matter what inning, but you know what you're facing, too. You know the odds aren't good to score five off their bullpen in the eighth and ninth."
"The only negative thing I can say is, 'Shame on the people who left,'" added Baltimore manager Dave Trembey. "They missed one of the great comebacks that's been coming around here for a long time. Maybe these guys tonight earned a little bit of respect, that maybe the people will stick around and watch them. I said all along that it'll take us to go the extra mile to get people back on our side here, and I think tonight might have been a step in the right direction for that to happen."
For seven innings, Erik Bedard and Daisuke Matsuzaka swapped zeroes, keeping both teams in the game out after out. The Red Sox (69-46) were down by one when the eighth started, but they scored five runs off three Baltimore pitchers to change the script. Undaunted, the Orioles strung together four hits and four runs to knot things up again.
The tying rally started with a rocket double off the right-field scoreboard by Corey Patterson, and the center fielder had a key hand in pushing home the winning run. Roberts hit a leadoff double in the ninth, moved to third on Patterson's sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Markakis to seal the win and incite a riotous celebration at home plate.
Even after having a few moments to let it sink in, many of the Orioles said the victory was hard to believe.
"I wish I could lie and say we were positive and upbeat, but I don't think we were," Roberts said. "Everybody was down -- I think a little bit at least -- and probably a little frustrated. CP led off with a big hit, and when you can get something started right out of the chute like that with nobody out, you feel like you can ride it, score a couple and get yourself back in it."
"We've lost so many close games," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "We've had so many barnburners all year long. To get a 'W' after being four runs down, it shows you we're not quitting. I've seen teams lay down before. We came in and kept firing each other up. And especially after Seattle, we kept our heads high the whole way through the finish line."
Bedard, who hasn't lost since June 10, was an artist for seven innings, dicing up his opponent and allowing just two hits. And then the eighth came, an inning that packed more drama than the rest of the game combined. The action started with two men on base and one out, and it started on an innocent grounder that Miguel Tejada turned into a mishmash of choreography.
Tejada booted the ball but stayed after it, swatting it on one-hop to third base in time for a fielder's choice. Bedard survived on that play, but after a few close pitches, Wily Mo Pena drilled a single to tie the game. The Orioles (53-61) removed Bedard at that point in favor of Chad Bradford, and Julio Lugo bunted in the go-ahead run on the first pitch he saw.
Boston went on to score three more runs in that inning -- two driven in by David Ortiz and one by Manny Ramirez. And the Orioles slinked back to the dugout, preparing against all odds to come back against the best bullpen in the league.
"I don't think guys were down," Trembley said. "I think guys were determined to do something about that game because Bedard had pitched so well and he didn't deserve to lose tonight."
The Red Sox went to setup man Eric Gagne in the eighth, and he gave up Patterson's liner off the scoreboard. Markakis singled to make it 5-2, and Tejada drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. With the capacity crowd standing and seemingly cheering for the road team, Aubrey Huff doubled to right field to score two runs.
That prompted Boston to go to Hideki Okajima, who'd been all but unhittable. That form went out the window, though, and Melvin Mora singled up the middle to tie the game. From there, destiny took over. Rookie Jim Hoey pitched a scoreless ninth -- even though he allowed the potential go-ahead run to reach third base -- and the O's scratched out the winning run.
"When you come back like that, you feel like it's just a matter of time before you win the game," Trembley said of the eighth-inning comeback. "When you get the third out in the ninth [and] you've got to work for the third one, then it's probably a little bit more convincing to you and your team that you're going to win. You're going to find a way to get it done. I think it's probably one of the better game we've seen from our guys this year, as far as the team."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.