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Orioles beat Red Sox as teams turn focus back to baseball

It was the stuff baseball games — real, legitimate baseball games — are made of.

There were two-out base hits and two-strike approaches. There was the frustration of not executing a rundown, and an angry pound of a glove when a catcher is baited into allowing a run to score on a double steal.

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And because the Orioles were involved, there was plenty of offense, as they beat the Boston Red Sox, 8-3, thanks to a 17-hit barrage Thursday at Fenway Park.

"Seemed like we played a baseball game tonight instead of all the drama, so we're looking forward to getting back in that flow again," manager Buck Showalter said.

In many of his players' minds, it was fitting. Their refrain, however haughty, through all of this week's drama was that they just wanted to get back to playing baseball, and winning.

They wanted to go home, but a series split would have been the only acceptable circumstances to travel south with.

A simple baseball game was a qualification for a happy trip home, too.

Of course, the fingerprints of the at-times senseless anger that has defined the preceding six games between these two clubs were still visible. Tyler Wilson, the Orioles' starter, found out at 11 p.m. Wednesday that he was starting the following day. Manager Buck Showalter had to use his planned starter, Ubaldo Jiménez, in relief after the quick-trigger, second-inning ejection of Orioles starter Kevin Gausman on Wednesday.

And when center fielder Adam Jones slid hard into second base in the third inning and brought Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia to the ground, it was hard not to see the parallel between the slide by Manny Machado 13 days earlier at Camden Yards that started most of this week's unpleasantness.

But all around it, baseball.

That was all anyone wanted after a four-game series between two of the top teams in the American League was hijacked by racist language directed at Jones, by debate over the intent when Dylan Bundy hit Mookie Betts, by Chris Sale throwing behind Machado and the ensuing profane rebuke Machado delivered, and by Gausman's ejection, which the Orioles found — and still find — unfathomable, even when viewed in the context of Major League Baseball trying to cool the tension between the clubs.

"We showed up today just ready to play a baseball game, ending a road trip, try to win this game on getaway day," said outfielder Seth Smith, who paced the Orioles with four hits.

Baseball began early, when two singles and an error put two Orioles in scoring position, but didn't score. Kyle Kendrick, making his first major league start since 2015, navigated through Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo to get out clean.

Wilson wasn't so lucky in the first inning. He lived down in the strike zone, as he typically does, but surrendered three straight two-out singles.

One run scored traditionally on a single by Xander Bogaerts, but a second scored when the Orioles didn't have their coverage complete on a rundown between first and second base. A run scored from third, and a crack in the Orioles' defense that Showalter recently praised as much-improved laid bare on the infield dirt.

The Orioles used the small variety of baseball to score their first run in the third inning. Smith singled with one out, went to second base on a bunt single by Jones and stood at third after Machado and Jones combined to prevent the double play. Then Machado and Smith executed a double steal, and the Orioles' deficit was halved.

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Then came the bigger version of baseball, one modern fans lament lacks fundamentals in comparison to the station-to-station game of the past.

Pedroia crushed his first home run of the season to open the home half of the third, but that 3-1 lead wouldn't last.

The first three Orioles reached via two singles and a walk in the fourth, and two scored on a double into the left-field corner by Smith. Two batters later, Machado unloaded on another ball and deposited it onto Lansdowne Street over the Green Monster. It traveled an estimated 466 feet, and gave the Orioles three runs to build a 6-3 lead.

And then they didn't let up. J.J. Hardy drove in a run with a one-out single in the fifth inning. Wilson settled in to retire 11 straight after Pedroia's home run. And instead of the Orioles struggling to get through the game after having to cover seven innings of relief Wednesday, it was Boston that needed to use its bullpen for more than half the game Thursday after Kendrick managed just four innings in his season debut.

Neither team's brand of baseball was particularly crisp all week. The Orioles will rue both the rundown and the decision to send Davis home toward an out at home plate on a bloop to center field that would have expanded an 8-3 lead by a run in the sixth inning.

But they wanted baseball, and baseball littered the day.

Some more good: Joey Rickard, a defensive replacement, made a circus catch in right field to keep at least three runs off the board and end the seventh inning. Brad Brach had another dominant inning of relief in the eighth, and Orioles closer Zach Britton looked like his 2016 self in a nonsave situation.

Some of the less good: The Red Sox tried to steal an out by claiming Trumbo didn't tag up in the sixth inning. Wilson was charged with a balk. Coaching decisions were made to be second-guessed.

Performances on the field were there to be enjoyed and critiqued. But at least it was baseball.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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