ATLANTA -- The little things they used to take for granted, like shaking hands after the game and playing music following a win, felt overly sweet to the Red Sox early Monday evening.
After a big comeback scored them an 8-6 victory over the Braves at Turner Field, Boston vanquished a 10-game losing streak.
"I came in the dugout before the game and was, 'Hey guys, let's try to shake hands after the game and play some music. The other way [stinks]'. It was nice to win a game, to be down the way we were and come back," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Down 6-1 after four, the defending World Series champions needed something to turn the tide amid a stretch of futility -- the likes of which no Red Sox team had endured in 20 years.
David Ortiz, as he has done so often, provided that something. The big slugger, who had been in a slump, fueled Boston to an 8-6 victory over the Braves on Monday afternoon at Turner Field.
Ortiz walloped a game-tying, three-run homer with two outs in the fifth, helping the Sox emerge from the hole the slumping Clay Buchholz had pinned them in. Of course, it was also Ortiz who put the Red Sox ahead for good with a sacrifice fly in the seventh that came right after the end of a one-hour, 26-minute rain delay.
"We've been fighting, trying to make things happen," Ortiz said. "Today wasn't the best way to start, but I've got to give credit to everybody. Everybody stayed together to fight through it and we ended up getting the W. Hopefully this is the beginning of something good."
It was the end of something bad -- a losing streak that started back on May 15 in Minnesota.
"You've got to start one way or the other," said Ortiz. "Things couldn't get no worse than what we've had the past 10 games."
While Ortiz once again took center stage after a big win, he had plenty of help.
Dustin Pedroia, who, like Ortiz, had been slumping entering this one, went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a pair of walks.
"In 10 games prior to today, there's one RBI combined [from Pedroia and Ortiz]," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Today there is six between the two. I think the outcome is directly correlated to their performance. That's not to put it all on them because we had a lot of good at-bats all the way up and down the lineup today. But them being in the middle of the lineup, their contributions are key for us."
Early on, before the big hits started booming off the Boston bats, the story of the day was another subpar performance by Buchholz.
From a command standpoint, it was a low point for Buchholz. His eight walks established a career high, beating out his previous high of five.
The righty also gave up four hits and six runs over three-plus innings on a day his ERA swelled to 7.02. Buchholz did get a single in the top of the third, but thinks that might have adversely impacted him on the mound.
"It's not fun, I know that," said Buchholz. "I felt really, really good in the bullpen before the game. Then I hit a wall whenever I got that hit, and never really caught my breath and struggled to get it. I had a long inning and then went back out for the next inning and still was, I don't think I was ready for the heat. I think the heat got to me a little bit today. That's about what I got right now."
Farrell wouldn't commit to Buchholz making his next start.
"Just talking to [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] before he came into the game, his warmup was good, the command was there. And then inside the game, the command was erratic. We've got to look at this a little bit closer and there's no determination on five days from now. We've got to continue to talk about what he's currently going through and what's best for him and certainly what's best for us."
The Red Sox broke out first when Grady Sizemore led off the third with a triple to center and Jackie Bradley Jr. drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
But the Braves got three right back against Buchholz in the bottom of the third, thanks in large part to three walks and a two-run double by Justin Upton.
It seemed like Boston's losing streak was threatening to be extended when the Braves knocked Buchholz out with another three-spot in the fourth. Buchholz started the inning by walking Jason Heyward. He then gave up an RBI double to B.J. Upton and walked Freddie Freeman, and Farrell gave him the hook.
Justin Upton (RBI double) and Andrelton Simmons came through with RBI singles against Burke Badenhop to make it 6-1.
At last, the Red Sox came to life in the fifth. It all started on a two-out walk by pinch-hitter Daniel Nava. Brock Holt followed with a double. Xander Bogaerts worked Ervin Santana for a walk. Pedroia ripped a two-run single and Boston was back in it, down just 6-3.
"It's nice," said Pedroia. "I haven't done much good of anything, but that will turn. You've got to believe that and that was a big start. The hit extended the inning. Obviously the at-bats before were the reason why we got to that point and then getting to David is what we want to do.
Ortiz's three-run homer couldn't have come at a better time, as he walloped Santana's 1-0 slider.
The comeback had shades of the comeback against the Tigers in Game 2 of last year's American League Championship Series. In that case, Pedroia's RBI single set up Ortiz's game-tying grand slam.
"Everyone's been grinding just to get on base," said Ortiz. "Pedroia's been grinding his butt off just to get on base and give me a chance to bring guys in."
Another gritty rally in the seventh gave the Red Sox the lead.
Holt started it with an infield hit. Bogaerts again drew an important walk. This time, Ortiz put Boston ahead with a sacrifice fly to deep right. Pierzynski added an insurance run on a broken-bat RBI single up the middle.
Another key to the win was the bullpen, which fired six shutout innings after the departure of Buchholz.
"Yeah it's been too long since we last shook hands after a game," said Farrell. "This was a total and complete team win."