BOSTON – Boston catcher Victor Martinez has noticed a difference in struggling slugger David Ortiz.

Ortiz, mired in an early-season slump that had him yanked from the DH spot the previous two games, hit his first homer of the season in the Red Sox’s 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

“You can tell he’s getting a lot better,” said Martinez, who joined the Red Sox in a trade-deadline deal last season. “You can see it in his (batting practice).”

The rest of Ortiz’s teammates can only hope Martinez is right.

“He’s huge (for us),” Bill Hall said. “A guy with that kind of ability and talent. We know what he can do.”

Ortiz entered hitting .146 with just two RBI. He homered into the Green Monster seats off Jeremy Guthrie, moving Boston ahead 1-0 in the second.

Jim Johnson walked Adrian Beltre with the bases loaded to force in the tiebreaking run as the Red Sox posted their ninth straight win over the Orioles.

Boston won its third in four games after a five-game losing streak. The Red Sox were 16-2 against the Orioles in 2009, winning the final eight meetings.

“We’re winning ugly but we’re finding ways to win,” Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.

Adam Jones had a two-run homer for Baltimore, which overcame a 3-0 deficit but dropped to a major league-worst 2-15 this season.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with a single and two walks against two relievers in the eighth before Beltre took Johnson’s 3-1 pitch inside to bring in the go-ahead run. Matt Albers (0-2) gave up J.D. Drew’s leadoff single before retiring the next two batters. Will Ohman walked Victor Martinez intentionally before walking Ortiz on four pitches.

“Walks obviously played a pivotal role in the game,” Baltimore Manager Dave Trembley said. “The walk to Ortiz turned out to be the key one.”

Manny Delcarmen (1-1) got the win despite allowing an inherited runner to score in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon got Julio Lugo to strike out with runners on first and second to end it for his fourth save.

Boston starter Jon Lester got into three jams but left in the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead. He’s 10-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 13 career starts against Baltimore.

Drew’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the third.

Beltre singled leading off the fifth, advanced on Jeremy Hermida’s infield hit and went to third when third baseman Miguel Tejada threw the ball into short right. He scored on Josh Reddick’s double-play grounder.

Jones’ two-run homer off Daniel Bard made it 3-2 in the seventh.

Matt Wieters doubled against Hideki Okajima leading off the eighth and Lugo pinch ran. Delcarmen walked Nolan Reimold before Garrett Atkins bunted into a fielder’s choice. Pinch-hitter Luke Scott’s slow roller to second scored Lugo.

Guthrie gave up three runs, five hits and walked two without a strikeout in six innings. He’s allowed three runs or less in each of his four starts.


NOTES: Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said before the game that right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw a four-inning simulated game in Toronto on Monday and will start in Baltimore next weekend. Jones was 0 for 15 before his homer. The Red Sox are 20-2 against Baltimore since Sept. 1, 2008.


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