ATLANTA — When the Boston Red Sox fell behind 6-1 in the third inning Monday, it looked like the defending World Series champions were headed to an embarrassing 11th straight loss.
Then David Ortiz, forced to play first base in the interleague game, turned things in the Red Sox’s favor just like he has done so many times.
The veteran left-handed hitter smashed a tying three-run homer in a five-run fifth inning and put Boston ahead on a sacrifice fly in the seventh as the Red Sox snapped their losing streak with an 8-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of something big,” Ortiz said. “It can’t get no worse than the last 10 games.”
The Red Sox (21-29) were outscored 52-26 during the losing streak and had not won since beating Minnesota 9-4 on May 14.
“It’s been too long since we last shook hands at the end of a game,” relieved Boston manager John Farrell said.
Ortiz had struggled during the Red Sox’s skid, but he remains the key run producer for the team.
With the highly vocal Red Sox fans in the sellout crowd of 48,501 at Turner Field chanting his name, Ortiz plated the tie-breaking run with a long fly off lefty reliever Ian Thomas (1-2). Boston added a second run in the inning on a single by catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
“David had a big game and we really needed that,” Pierzynski said. “Things didn’t start out very well.”
The Braves (28-22) took advantage of starter Clay Buchholz’s wildness in building a big lead, but the Red Sox bullpen held them in check over the last four innings. Edward Mujica (2-1) got credit for the victory after pitching a scoreless sixth inning, and Koji Uehara closed it out in the ninth for his 10th save.
After Buchholz walked eight while getting just three outs, the Red Sox were in a 6-1 hole before storming back after Braves starter Ervin Santana got two quick outs to start the fifth.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia singled in two runs, and then Ortiz, usually the designated hitter, drove a hanging 0-1 slider into the center-field seats with two on for his 12th home run of the season.
Pedroia and Ortiz had both been quiet at the plate during the losing streak, combining for just one RBI during the skid. In the streak-breaker, they drove in six runs.
“Their contributions are key for us,” Farrell said.
After giving up just nine runs in his first six starts, Santana has allowed 17 in his past three as his ERA has jumped from 1.99 to 4.02. He allowed five hits, walked three and struck out six in the no-decision.
“I lost my control and made some bad pitches,” Santana said.
Buchholz, who threw just 42 of his 88 pitches for strikes, walked two in the first inning and one in the second but the Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on Grady Sizemore’s triple and a sacrifice fly by Jackie Bradley Jr. The Braves started to make Buchholz pay for his wildness in the bottom of the third.
Buchholz walked his fourth and fifth batters before a two-run double by left fielder Justin Upton. Two infield singles and a sixth walk followed, with catcher Gerald Laird’s smash off Buchholz’s left leg driving in the third run.
“I’ve been working on my mechanics and it’s easier in the bullpen,” Buchholz said. “It’s something I’ve got to work through. It’s snowballing on me right now.”
“We’ve got to look at this a little closer and there is no determination on five days from now,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to continue talking about what’s best for him and what’s best for us.”
The right-hander was pulled without getting an out in the fourth inning after two more walks and an RBI double by center fielder B.J. Upton. Burke Badenhop came in and gave up Justin Upton’s second run-producing double and an RBI single by Andrelton Simmons.
The Braves, though, left eight runners on base in the first four innings and that came back to haunt them.
“This one stings a little bit,” B.J. Upton said.
NOTES: The game was interrupted by rain in the middle of the sixth inning for an hour and 26 minutes. … With 1B Mike Napoli (sprained finger) on the DL, the Red Sox recalled 1B/C Ryan Lavarnway from Triple-A Pawtucket, and he grounded out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. … RHP Alex Wilson, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief at Tampa Bay on Sunday in his only appearance, was returned to Triple-A. … Red Sox DH David Ortiz played 1B for the first time since Game 5 of last year’s World Series. He played six games there last year. … This is the first interleague series for both the Braves and Red Sox. … LHP Jon Lester (4-6, 3.36 ERA) will start for Boston on Tuesday night against RHP Aaron Harang (4-4, 3.32). … After two games in Atlanta, the teams play in Boston on Wednesday and Thursday. … SS Stephen Drew, who could join the Red Sox by June 2, was 1-for-3 with a double and made an error while playing seven innings in his second game for Class A Greenville on Sunday. He is slated to join either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday.