BALTIMORE — Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli knows he is going to get plenty of RBI opportunities with slugger David Ortiz batting in front of him.
On Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles, Ortiz was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out in the seventh inning and Napoli went to the plate just looking to hit a fly ball to score a run. Instead, he ripped a single up the middle to blow open the game as Boston cruised to a 6-2 victory.
Napoli also homered and finished with four RBIs. Ortiz got his first home run of the season and 432nd of his career, breaking a tie with former Orioles players Cal Ripken Jr. for 45th all time.
“In that situation, you got one out and the bases loaded, so I’m just trying to hit a fly ball to get the run in,” Napoli said. “I just happened to get a base hit, so that’s extra.
“It’s nice to come through in those situations. It’s gonna happen. They’re not going to give in to (Ortiz). They’re gonna make me beat you. So to come through in those situations is nice.”
Red Sox left-hander John Lackey was impressive in his first start. He allowed two runs and three hits with six strikeouts and one walk in six innings. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia went 4-for-5 with two runs for Boston.
Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez took the loss in his debut after signing a four-year, $50 million contract in the offseason. He allowed four runs and five hits with six strikeouts and three walks in six innings.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz homered for the second consecutive game for the Orioles. Shortstop JJ Hardy went 2-for-4.
“Usually I get the ball down,” Jimenez said. “That’s something I’ll have to work on in my bullpen and get ready for my next one. I have to get it down because most of the outs were fly balls.”
The Red Sox led 4-2 in the seventh when a throwing error by Baltimore third baseman Ryan Flaherty allowed two runners to move into scoring position. Napoli then delivered a two-RBI single off reliever Ryan Webb that broke open the game. Flaherty was filling in for injured Manny Machado, who is still recovering from knee surgery.
With the victory, the World Series champion Red Sox tied the three-game series after the Orioles won the opener 2-1. The Red Sox will send Felix Doubront to the mound on Thursday against Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen in the rubber match.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third when Ortiz launched a 91 mph fastball from Jimenez into the flag court over the right field scoreboard. That hit snapped a 0-for-7 skid for Ortiz against the right-hander.
Meanwhile, Lackey was cruising for the Red Sox and had great command. After allowing a leadoff single to right fielder Nick Markakis in the first, Lackey retired 11 consecutive batters, including five on strikeouts.
“I was very pleased for the first (start). It felt pretty good. It’s something I can keep building on,” Lackey said. “When you are ahead on counts, it gives you options.”
The Orioles, however, came alive in the fourth. Lackey walked first baseman Chris Davis with two outs and Cruz followed with a towering homer to left center to tie the score. Boston answered an inning later when Napoli launched another two-run homer off Jimenez to center for a 4-2 lead.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was not overly concerned about Jimenez allowing the two homers and taking the loss.
“Yeah, he threw the ball fine,” Showalter said. “He was actually able to get deep into the game for a team like that and was able to limit their foul balls and fouling off pitches so he could get deep in the game. He threw the ball fine. He was able to get some strikeouts and put some balls in play early in the count.”
NOTES: After visiting the White House as the World Series champions, the Red Sox also went to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., to meet with injured members of the military. … Boston reliever Craig Breslow, who is on the disabled list with a mild shoulder strain, will pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday and Friday and could return to the big league club as early as Saturday. … Baltimore reliever Troy Patton is serving a 25-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy but threw a bullpen session on Wednesday. … Orioles RF Nick Markakis is fighting through neck stiffness, but he was able to make his second consecutive start.