The Orioles needed a deep outing from right-hander Bud Norris on Monday night against the Boston Red Sox after the club's bullpen accounted for 6 2/3 innings the previous day.
Norris gave the Orioles just that, recording his best start since joining the club last July, tossing eight scoreless innings and holding Boston to just three hits as the Orioles handed the Red Sox their sixth loss in the last seven games with a 4-0 shutout win in front of an announced 19,729 at Camden Yards.
With the Orioles opening a 13-game stretch against American League East opponents, Norris quieted the reeling defending World Series champions by getting ahead in the count, drawing quick outs on the way to a speedy game that needed just two hours and 21 minutes to complete.
"We needed a well-pitched game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had bullets down in the 'pen, but Bud was really good. I probably would have given him a chance to finish that game, [but] he had a blister, a pretty good blister, going on underneath his nail. Didn't like the way it was starting to look."
The Orioles (32-30) backed Norris with three home runs off Boston starter Jake Peavy, including right fielder Nick Markakis' two-run homer in the fifth inning that landed on the right-field flag court.
Adam Jones, who served as the designated hitter, hit a solo home run in the first inning, and second baseman Ryan Flaherty added a solo shot in the seventh.
Markakis, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a first-inning single, is batting .380 with three homers and 10 RBIs over that span.
In the fifth inning, Markakis turned on a 2-1 hanging curveball from Peavy for his sixth homer of the season and his third in his last six games to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
Norris (5-5) utilized his changeup -- a pitch that he has concentrated on perfecting since spring training -- to keep the Red Sox hitters off-balance.
"It was extremely important," Norris said. "It's something I've been working on forever. It seems to be my third pitch, and I know I need to get it in there, to go out there every day and have confidence.
"I know I need it. Some days it's there, some days it's not, but to go out there and commit and throw it is a good sign."
Norris had allowed four or more runs in four of his last five starts before Monday, but he retired 13 straight Boston batters after allowing a single by Brock Holt to open the game. Norris constantly worked ahead in the count against the Red Sox, throwing first-pitch strikes to nine of the first 12 batters he faced.
"I wouldn't say he was dominant, but that third pitch kind of put his game at a different level," Showalter said of Norris' changeup. "Really commanded the fastball, too. Got some early outs, didn't really get in a lot of deep counts. I thought that was fun to watch. He was a lot more entertaining, I can tell you that."
A patient Red Sox lineup that traditionally pummels mistake pitches didn't draw much hard contact against Norris. Mike Napoli hit a ball to the warning track in center for a long flyout and David Ortiz rocketed a sharp liner into a shift on which Flaherty made a diving grab in shallow right field.
"It's nice to take hits away," Flaherty said. "You've got a guy pitching like that, and he deserves a play, so that was nice. … He dominated. He was around the strike zone. Easy to play defense when a guy's out there doing that."
Three batters into the bottom of the first, Jones launched a 1-0 slider from Peavy over the center-field fence for his 10th homer of the season and the 150th of his career.
Flaherty had only one home run this season before blasting a first-pitch delivery into the third row of the center-field seats in the seventh.
Peavy (1-4) hadn't allowed more than one homer in any of his 12 previous starts this season before giving up three Monday.
Peavy, who is winless in his last eight starts, allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings Monday. He struck out seven hitters and walked one.
The Red Sox (28-35) didn't have many opportunities against Norris. Their best chance came in the sixth, when they had two runners on and one out after Norris issued a pair of walks.
But Norris escaped the jam, inducing a flyout to right field from Xander Bogaerts and a fielder's choice from Dustin Pedroia.
Norris left to a loud ovation from the home crowd after he stranded a runner at third base in the eighth when he struck out Bogaerts on three pitches, making him swing at a slider in the dirt to end the inning.
"He was great," Markakis said about Norris. "You can always look back and pick bad things and good things, and I'm sure if you asked him, he didn't want to walk anybody. When you did have guys on, he got better. And that's what you need to do as a starting pitcher. Guys get on, you get better. He got himself out of a couple situations in the game, and that's what you need … it was a good win."
Showalter was tempted to let Norris go out for the ninth, but didn't like the way a blister was developing on Norris' pitching hand. Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless ninth in his first outing since returning from the 15-day disabled list Sunday, retiring the Red Sox in order in the ninth.
"I think I've had it since college, to be honest," Norris said of the blister. "A lot of guys get them here and there. It's in an awkward spot for me. It was a precautionary reason, and I understand he's the skipper. He's going to make decisions. I'm OK with that."