Red Sox finally find winning formula

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ATLANTA -- Theo Epstein showed up here 10 years ago after watching two months of the Boston Red Sox playing bad baseball, defended shortstop Nomar Garciaparra from his chorus of critics, then traded his franchise icon less than a month later.

Ben Cherington's turn to shake down the thunder? Best to wait a few weeks, it appears, to guess at that answer, but for Red Sox manager John Farrell, the general manager's rendezvous with the club here Monday evoked something less than dread. What did he read into Cherington's visit?

"We're all in this together," Farrell said.

And together Monday afternoon, the Red Sox recovered from another flop by "Flacco" -- David Ortiz's Spanish nickname ("The Skinny One") for Clay Buchholz -- and ended their 10-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 8-6 win over the Atlanta Braves. That gave at least short-term credence to Cherington's calm pregame declaration that "we know we have the core of a winning team here, and we're going to win."

It also gave the appearance that A.J. Pierzynski's pregame suggestion did not fall on deaf ears.

"I came in the dugout before the game and was like, 'Hey guys, let's try to shake hands after the game and play some music. The other way [stinks],'" said Pierzynski, who singled home the final of seven runs scored by the Sox after they'd fallen behind 6-1 in the fourth.

"It was nice to win a game, to be down the way we were and come back."

Before a Memorial Day full house of 48,501 in Turner Field that sounded like every Red Sox fan south of the Mason-Dixon line had made Atlanta their holiday destination, the Sox finally cashed in a couple of IOU's from Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, both delivering the kind of big hits that had been missing during a wave of losing in which Boston had been outscored 52-26.

"I haven't done much of anything," Pedroia said. "That'll turn."

Ortiz (4-for-34, .118) had not knocked in a single run during the losing streak; Pedroia (8-for-41, .195) had driven in one. They had not hit safely in the same game since May 17, a span of eight games. They had not hit safely in the same inning since May 13, a span of a dozen games.

That all changed in the fifth inning Monday, when with two out and nobody on in the fifth, pinch hitter Daniel Nava coaxed a full-count walk from Ervin Santana. Brock Holt then roped a double into the right-field corner, and Xander Bogaerts laid off a slider to draw another full-count walk to load the bases.

Pedroia lined a two-run single to make it 6-3, and Ortiz made Braves fans choke on their Chick-fil-A by driving a game-tying, three-run home run into the left-center-field seats. The home run was the 12th of the season for Ortiz and his first since hitting two apiece in back-to-back games in Minnesota just before the streak commenced.

"That wasn't a hitter's pitch," claimed Ortiz, even though he affixed his personal signature to it. "It was a backdoor slider. Santana works away from his fastball after the first couple of innings. You take a chance to hit an off-speed pitch. That was a backdoor slider that came back over the plate and up. That's a pitch you want to hit."

The roar that went up when Ortiz connected shook Pierzynski.

"When David hit that home run, that was the loudest cheer as a visitor that I've probably ever heard," Pierzynski said. "It was pretty cool there were so many Red Sox fans here and how loud they were yelling.

"I don't know why they were all here, but pretty darn cool. I was on deck and got the full force of it because I was out at home plate."

While six relievers spared Buchholz with six scoreless innings of four-hit relief, the Sox forged ahead in the seventh. With Braves lefty Ian Thomas giving it his best Wild Thing impression and throwing consecutive pitches to the backstop, the Sox used a couple of walks and Holt's infield hit to load the bases. Ortiz broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, and Pierzynski's base hit gave the Sox an insurance run.

That the worm might have turned was never more apparent than in the eighth, when reliever Andrew Miller, tagged with walk-off losses in each of his past four appearances, gave up a leadoff hit to Jason Heyward but was elated seconds later when Heyward overslid the bag and a perfect throw from Jackie Bradley Jr. erased him, Pedroia applying the tag.

"Great throw, great arm," Pedroia said. "He backspun it to me right on the money. Heyward is a big boy. I could hear him coming. I don't think he realized he flat-out couldn't stop. Big man."

While Boston's Big Papi and Little Big Man combined to knock in six runs, Farrell lauded a total team effort in which every position player in the Sox lineup reached safely except for Bradley, who hit a sacrifice fly and again made his presence felt defensively. Koji Uehara sealed the deal with his first save in more than two weeks; he hadn't had an opportunity to showcase his trademark high-five since May 11.

"We lost in a lot of different ways," Pedroia said. "Long way to go, a lot of games. We can win 10 just as easy as we lose 10. Guys are going to keep fighting, try to play the game the right way and win as many games as we can."

Do that, and Cherington just might stay home.

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