BOSTON -- Say this for the 2012 Orioles: they've got fight. And when it comes to marathon matchups at Fenway Park this season, they are undefeated in delivering the knockout blow.
The Orioles overcame some questionable defense, a five-inning start and a blown save from closer Jim Johnson to score a pair of 10th-inning runs and take a series-opening 8-6 win over the Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd at Fenway Park.
The game, which featured multiple lead changes with sloppy play from both clubs, was Baltimore's third extra-inning contest in four games in Boston -- with the teams playing 49 innings over that stretch -- and improved the Orioles to 4-0 at Fenway Park, with wins in seven of their last eight inside the Red Sox's home.
"I try not to get too high or too low, but that's one of our better wins of the year," manager Buck Showalter said as he watched a pair of unheralded players, in Ronny Paulino and Endy Chavez, deliver RBI singles in the 10th. "That was a real test for us a little bit.
"This environment and the chance to roll over a couple times, it doesn't surprise me at all [to see the team fight]. It was good to see."
Tuesday's victory also puts the struggling Orioles, who have lost four consecutive series, back into a first-place tie in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays, and could be just what the doctor ordered for Baltimore (31-24) to get back on track.
Asked what this win could do to galvanize the O's, Johnson, who picked up the "W" with a perfect 10th inning, was succinct.
"It can salvage a road trip," Johnson said, as the Orioles improved to 2-5 on the last leg of a three-city, nine-game trip and have a chance to take their first series since taking two of three in Washington, May 18-20.
"We've got to be able to win on the road if you want to play in the final series of the year," said starter Jason Hammel, who allowed two runs (one earned) and exited after 106 pitches. "You've got to be able to win on the road. It's definitely huge. It's a good momentum builder, especially the way we have been playing of late, not playing our best ball. We've got to keep fighting and clawing and finding a way to win."
The Orioles did just that Tuesday night, scoring a pair of runs off Red Sox reliever Scott Atchison, who saw a 15-game scoreless streak snapped, and scratching together two runs off closer Alfredo Aceves.
Mark Reynolds worked his second walk of the night off Aceves to open the 10th and moved to second on Steve Pearce's sacrifice bunt. Pearce, who had two RBIs in a Major League game for the first time since May 28, 2011, set the table for Paulino's RBI single up the middle. The Orioles got a pair of hits from Ryan Flaherty and Chavez to push their lead to two and give Johnson a chance to redeem himself.
"I'll tell you what, we would have had a full-fledged fist fight," Showalter said of trying to stop Johnson from coming back into the game. "You would have had something to talk about if I had gone down there and tried. Darren [O'Day] was coming in if the score stayed tied. ... We like [Johnson] on the mound in that opportunity. I feel good that we finally picked him up. He's been such a war horse for us."
Needing just one more out in the ninth, Johnson watched Jarrod Saltalamacchia's ball just cross over the piping atop the Green Monster for a two-run homer that -- upon review -- stood up as a game-tying blast. Johnson had saved 25 consecutive games dating back to Aug. 14, 2011, before suffering the blown save, and said he wanted to go back out there because it was "his fault."
"It was not the way I wanted it to work out, but it did," Johnson said of the win, "so we are happy with it."
"We showed fight all game today," added Pearce, who patrolled the Green Monster in left field with impressive ease. "Every time something went bad for us, we responded the next inning. This team showed great heart. We battled. It was a huge win especially to start off the series."
Down a run, the Orioles chased starter Jon Lester from the game after Chavez's leadoff single in the seventh and Atchison allowed the inherited runner to score on shortstop J.J. Hardy's RBI single. The O's added a pair of one-out runs courtesy of back-to-back hits from Reynolds and Pearce -- both of which came off Matt Albers -- to mark just the second time in nine games Baltimore has scored more than five runs.
"You have to tip your hat to those guys tonight," said Lester, who is 14-0 in 20 starts against Baltimore but has three straight no-decisions. "Every time we scored they came right back and answered. They had a good approach tonight."
Hammel, who has been dealing with right knee soreness for the past month, held Boston scoreless until the fifth inning, when some sloppy fielding helped pave the way for a pair of runs.
After a pair of singles, Reynolds fielded Scott Podsednik's sacrifice bunt and inexplicably threw to third base although Daniel Nava was already in there safely. The throw got by Steve Tolleson, who was charged with an error, allowing Nava to score. The Red Sox tied it up on Dustin Pedroia's shallow sacrifice fly, with center fielder Adam Jones making a good throw that catcher Matt Wieters couldn't get a handle on.
The Orioles scored first, plating two unearned runs on back-to-back two-out RBI singles from Jones and Wieters in the third inning.
Reliever Troy Patton followed Hammel and surrendered a pair of runs in the sixth, with Luis Ayala and Pedro Strop combining to go 1 2/3 scoreless frames to bridge the gap to Johnson.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.