BALTIMORE — John Smoltz watched in disbelief as the Boston Red Sox wound up on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in Baltimore Orioles history.
Smoltz wasn’t upset that he didn’t earn his long-awaited 211th victory. He just couldn’t believe that the Red Sox didn’t win, either.
“No one would have ever dreamed it would play out the way it did,” Smoltz said after the Orioles rallied from a nine-run deficit to win 11-10 Tuesday night. “It’s one of those games when you shake your head and can’t believe what you just saw.”
Nick Markakis hit a two-run double off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon to complete the comeback before a mixture of delirious hometown fans and stunned Red Sox backers.
Baltimore trailed 10-1 before scoring five runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth. The rally was even more shocking because it came against a Boston team that had defeated the Orioles eight straight times, including five this season.
Up by nine runs in the seventh, the Red Sox probably figured the only lamentable aspect of the night was that Smoltz wouldn’t get his first win with Boston because of a lengthy rain delay.
The Red Sox had no idea how bad it would get.
“It was a weird game, a terrible loss for us,” Dustin Pedroia said. “That’s upsetting. Things just kind of spiraled on us.”
Previously, the biggest comeback in Orioles history was Sept. 2, 1956, when Baltimore rallied from an eight-run deficit at Boston. In this one, the Orioles got 13 of their 16 hits in the seventh and eighth innings.
“We just had no answer,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We went through everybody. Nothing we did worked.”
Mark Hendrickson (3-4) gave up one run in three innings and George Sherrill got three outs for his 17th save.
“That was probably the best game I’ve been involved in, right there,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. “That was absolutely tremendous. When you talk about playing all 27 outs, that’s tonight.”
Takashi Saito (2-1) took the loss and Papelbon was charged with his second blown save, one night after he tied Bob Stanley’s career record for saves with Boston. The right-hander was 20-for-20 in save opportunities against the Orioles.
Baltimore used seven hits in the seventh inning, including a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar, to cut a 10-1 deficit to 10-6.
“You sit on the bench 5 hours with the rain delay, but when they told me to hit, I was ready,” Salazar said.
In the eighth, Ty Wigginton hit a sacrifice fly and Brian Roberts delivered an RBI single before Papelbon entered. The right-hander struck out Felix Pie for the second out before Markakis stepped in.
Markakis was 0 for 7 with four strikeouts against Papelbon, but this time he hit a double to left-center.
“Give the other team credit. They put pressure on our bullpen tonight and we pretty much imploded,” Papelbon said. “I can’t think of any other word that describes it better.”
It had been 438 days since the 42-year-old Smoltz won a game, and it appeared certain the right-hander would end the drought when Boston took a 9-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth. But a fierce storm forced the game to be stopped for 71 minutes.
Thus ended Smoltz’s second start with Boston after a 20-year run with the Atlanta Braves. Five days earlier, he gave up five runs over five innings in a loss to Washington.
Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury homered for the Red Sox, and Pedroia had three RBIs. None of it really mattered in the end.
“It happened real fast. We beat them up pretty good and then they beat us up pretty good,” Pedroia said.
Before the Red Sox blew the lead, Boston’s infielders joined pitcher Justin Masterson in leaving the field with two outs in the sixth inning.
Thinking Pie’s grounder to shortstop was the third out, Masterson walked toward the Boston dugout and was followed by his infielders. All of them sheepishly returned after realizing their gaffe.
NOTES: Orioles CF Adam Jones ran into the wall trying to catch Youkilis’ homer. He stayed in the game but was ultimately replaced by Pie in the third inning. … The Red Sox placed 3B Mike Lowell on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Jeff Bailey from Triple-A Pawtucket. Bailey batted ninth and went 3 for 4 and scored three runs.