BOSTON -- The Orioles were in cruise control during Monday night's series opener with the Red Sox, getting walked eight times and stealing a season-high four bases as they jumped out to a six-run lead.
But a bullpen meltdown following five scoreless innings from Chris Tillman, who pitched through back stiffness, allowed Boston back in the game, and a two-run walk-off double by Adrian Gonzalez off closer Kevin Gregg capped a wild comeback as the Red Sox handed the Orioles an 8-7 loss.
"I think everybody knows we had that game," said center fielder Adam Jones. "We let that game get away from us. That's the game of baseball. Let's correct our mistakes and come out and swing the bats the way we did today. Our bullpen is fine. Our pitching is fine. They've been battling their butts off. Let's just put them in the same position tomorrow."
The Red Sox rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth, cutting the Orioles' lead to one. A Mark Reynolds solo shot in the seventh widened the margin, but the two-run double off Gregg in the ninth finished a game that lasted nearly four hours.
"We scored some runs early and we thought it was going to be one of those cruisers," said first baseman Derrek Lee, who left the game in the third inning with a left oblique strain, "but they did a great job fighting back. They have a great offense. They're never out of it. You can see that's what they believe, like they're never out of the game."
Lee said the 23-year-old Tillman deserved to win the game after tossing 88 pitches through five scoreless innings, but Tillman felt his back acting up a couple times in the fifth inning and never returned after that. When Tillman woke up Monday morning, his back was stiff, but he was able to work through it with the trainers before the game.
"For the most part, I didn't feel it in my pitching delivery," said Tillman, who is optimistic he won't have to miss his next start. "It was more to do with when I was breathing. It had nothing to do with the way my pitches felt or the pitch quality. My pitches felt good."
Manager Buck Showalter said he liked what he saw out of Tillman, who may have been pitching for a job with the pending return of Brian Matusz.
"[Tillman] has a lot of deception and they didn't center a lot of balls off him," Showalter said. "He gave us a good chance to win; we just couldn't pitch those last four innings."
On the opposite side, Daisuke Matsuzaka was erratic from the start, after getting hit in the ribs by a line drive from Brian Roberts on the first pitch he threw, but stayed in the game, walking seven and allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Lee got the scoring started in the first, doubling home Roberts. Matt Wieters singled home a run in the third, and Reynolds knocked home Luke Scott in the fourth to give Tillman an early cushion.
Scott entered the game batting .234, but he walked a career-high four times, three off Dice-K.
But Boston connected on five runs in the bottom of the sixth, with errors from Scott and Reynolds aiding the rally, and the Red Sox knocked around Mike Gonzalez and Jeremy Accardo before finishing things off against Gregg in the ninth.
"We just couldn't get any momentum or anything out of the bullpen," Showalter said. "We squandered some chances to open it up. You know they're going to make a run at you at some point; we just couldn't [stem] the tide. Everything they saw they put in play there and found a hole."
Collectively, six Orioles relievers allowed eight runs (five earned) in four innings.
"What we did as a bullpen right here, that was terrible," said Gregg, who blew his third save in 10 chances this season. "We allowed them to keep the momentum. We didn't get the shutdown innings that we needed."
While the wind was blowing in from center field most of the night, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said there could have been a lot more runs scored had the weather been better.
"The ballpark played big," he said. "That ball Reynolds hit [in the seventh], that ball, on a summer night, you can pick it up on the way home. Because Youk hit his ball [in the eighth] as good as you can and it didn't go. But, you know, there's something to be said for just continuing to play. We got to hit last and we had a really good hitter up at the plate."
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.