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Must C Clutch: Gonzalez wins it for Boston

BOSTON -- They kept climbing and climbing, but for a while, it was shaping up as a valiant battle back that was going to fall just short. But by the end of Monday night, the Red Sox had their hottest hitter -- one of the hottest hitters anywhere -- at the plate with the game on the line.

It was an opportunity that Adrian Gonzalez wasn't going to waste. So on the first pitch he saw from Orioles closer Kevin Gregg, the star slugger ripped it off the Green Monster in left. Jacoby Ellsbury scored easily from second. Dustin Pedroia roared all the way around from first.

And just like that, Gonzalez had his first walk-off hit with Boston -- a two-run double with one out in the bottom of the ninth that led the Red Sox to an improbable 8-7 victory over the Orioles.

This was a game Gonzalez and his teammates trailed 6-0 entering the bottom of the sixth. According to Elias, it is the biggest comeback for the Red Sox since April 25, 2009, at Yankee Stadium, when they also trailed 6-0.

With the wind whipping in during an unseasonably cold night at Fenway, Boston never quit. The reward was going above .500 for the first time this season.

"It's a hard game to win," said manager Terry Francona. "The ballpark played big. 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."

Gonzalez, who went 3-for-5 on the night, has simply blistered the baseball of late. Since May 2, a span of 14 games, he has four doubles, eight homers and 22 RBIs.

Yes, this is what the Red Sox envisioned when they made a blockbuster trade in December to bring Gonzalez to Boston.

The pitch Gonzalez hit was a hanging slider.

"I was just looking for a fastball middle away, to try to stay behind it," Gonzalez said. "He ended up throwing a slider, kind of one of those get-me-over sliders, and I was able to put a good swing on it."

The rally started with perseverance and patience. Jason Varitek led off the ninth by drilling one to left, a drive that seemed to have wall ball written all over it. But the wind knocked it down, and it was an out. Ellsbury worked a walk and then stole second.

Up stepped Pedroia, who is in one of the worst slumps of his career of late, but he still managed to work a nine-pitch walk. In fact, Pedroia almost had the walk-off hit, but his drive down the left-field line went just foul.

"He had an incredible at-bat," Gonzalez said of Pedroia. "He did what he does. He's done it numerous amounts of times. That's a huge at-bat. If I come up to the plate with two outs, it's a different story than one out. That was a big at-bat."

There was no hint early of the kind of gratifying win this would end up being.

Daisuke Matsuzaka lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and five runs. He walked seven and struck out two, throwing 106 pitches -- 57 of them strikes -- over 4 1/3 innings.

"I didn't think he was letting it go," said Francona. "Obviously there were 4 1/3 innings -- seven walks, five hits, that's a lot of baserunners. We were probably lucky there weren't more runs. It just didn't look like he was allowing himself to get extended. I think we're going to probably sit and talk to him a little bit and figure out more what's going on. It just didn't look completely right."

It was the third time in Matsuzaka's career he has walked seven or more.

This felt very much like a blowout in motion, and in the wrong direction for the Red Sox.

But it all started to come together in the bottom of the sixth, when J.D. Drew started a five-run rally innocently enough with a line-drive single to left, in which he was able to move to second when the ball moved past Luke Scott for an error.

Jed Lowrie followed with an RBI double, and the Red Sox were on the board. Carl Crawford reached on an error by third baseman Mark Reynolds, and Lowrie moved to third. Varitek kept the momentum going with an RBI single to right against lefty Michael Gonzalez. With two outs, Adrian Gonzalez roped an RBI single to right off Jeremy Accardo, and it was a three-run game.

Kevin Youkilis sliced the deficit to 6-5 with a two-run double to left. It was Youkilis who smashed a game-tying three-run homer on Sunday night, a game the Sox came back to win at Yankee Stadium.

"Youk's been great," Pedroia said. "He's had big hit after big hit, and we need that from him."

Alfredo Aceves gave one of those runs right back, as Reynolds helped make amends for his error by blasting a solo homer to center.

But Aceves, aside from that one mistake, came up big, firing three strong innings (two hits, two strikeouts) to earn the victory, his first in a Boston uniform.

"Ace did an incredible job," Gonzalez said. "He made one mistake with that curveball. Other than that, he was pretty much lights-out. That's the kind of pitcher he is. He was a big pickup for us."

The offense was heroic, and it needed to be. Boston again slimmed Baltimore's lead to one in the bottom of the seventh, getting a leadoff triple by Lowrie and an RBI single from Varitek.

"We just couldn't get any momentum or anything out of the bullpen," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "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."

The Orioles were able to wiggle out of a jam in the eighth, an inning that started with another double by Youkilis. But they ran into Gonzalez in the ninth, and that didn't end well.

After sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx, the Sox have won four in a row.

"We've definitely got the team that's more than capable of doing it, day in and day out," Gonzalez said after Boston's third walk-off win since May 1. "Collectively, we were able to have good, consistent at-bats and just try to have professional at-bats, and it paid off." Comments