ATLANTA — A strange day ended with a much-needed victory for the struggling Boston Red Sox.
Hours after benching third baseman Pablo Sandoval for using his Instagram account during a loss to Atlanta the night before, the Red Sox bounced back for its second win in 10 games, 5-2 over the Braves on Thursday.
The win came thanks in part to a dropped popup and a 10-pitch at-bat by starting pitcher Clay Buchholz that ended with a strikeout.
"Regardless of what has gone on, a win is always a good thing," manager John Farrell said after his team split a four-game, two-city series with the Braves. "We need as many as we can get, obviously. "
Buchholz (4-6) threw seven strong innings and Koji Uehara earned his 14th save. Buchholz gave up two unearned runs and struck out three.
But it was an at-bat by Buchholz, a pitcher in the league that uses the designated hitter, that may have set the stage for the key Red Sox rally as he forced extra pitches from Braves starter Shelby Miller in the fifth inning on a hot, humid night.
"Facing another pitcher, all you want to do is throw strikes," Buchholz said. "Sometimes it's hard to do that. I was able to get into a full count and foul some good pitches off. Some of those pitches, actual hitters probably would have been mad at themselves for fouling off."
While Miller got the strikeout, he ended up giving up five hits and three runs the following inning to put the Braves in a 4-0 hole.
"That's probably the toughest at-bat I had all game," Miller said. "For an American League pitcher, he did pretty well up there."
Miller ran into some bad luck as well in the sixth when third baseman Juan Uribe dropped a routine foul popup from Mookie Betts about 15 feet from home plate. Betts singled two pitches later, then David Ortiz singled to load the bases with no outs.
A run scored on Hanley Ramirez's double-play grounder, Xander Bogaerts hit an RBI single and Alejandro De Aza finished Miller's night with a run-scoring double.
Brock Holt had two hits and a walk, scored three times and made a diving stop on a grounder at second base in the seventh when Atlanta had two runners on base. Holt has reached base in 13 straight games.
"I've been saying it since Day One — he is a huge pick up for us," Buchholz said of Holt. "He can play a lot of positions, he can hit, he has power. He's not just a bench player. He's been a big asset to this club."
The Braves scored two unearned runs in the sixth when A.J. Pierzynski hit a line drive off Buchholz's glove with the bases loaded. Buchholz scrambled after the ball, then overthrew Ortiz at first by trying to throw the ball with his glove hand. Cameron Maybin and Nick Markakis scored on the play.
The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes because of rain.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia sat out with inflammation in his left knee. He has missed two of the last three games. Farrell said it was a day-to-day situation and the Red Sox are not considering the DL yet. ... RHP Heith Hembree was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation retroactive to June 15. Hembree had an 8.53 ERA in four relief appearances this season.
Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman missed his first game since Sept. 24, 2013, with a sprained right wrist, ending a streak of 234 straight games — it had been the longest active streak in the majors. ... SS Andrelton Simmons returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with a sore hand.
Red Sox: Rookie Eduardo Rodriguez will look to bounce back from a rough start as the Red Sox open a three-game series at Kansas City. Rodriguez (2-1, 3.55 ERA) allowed nine runs in his third career start on June 14 after consecutive stellar outings to begin his career. He will be opposed by Yohan Pino, who is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Omaha and make his first start for the Royals.
Braves: The Braves will open a three-game series at home against the NL East-leading Mets. Jacob deGrom (7-4, 2.33 ERA) will start for New York. Top prospect Matt Wisler will make is Major League debut for the Braves in place of Mike Foltynewicz, who was sent to Triple-A Gwinnet on Wednesday.
Markakis played his 393rd straight game in the outfield without an error, setting the all-time MLB record for consecutive errorless games by an outfielder. He surpassed Darren Lewis, who set the previous mark from 1990-94.
ORTIZ GRABS HIS GLOVE
Ortiz started at first base with no designated hitter in the National League park. Since 2003, the Red Sox are 46-20 with Ortiz starting in such situations and 21-28 when he does not. He has played 27 straight error-less games as a first baseman. He was removed in the seventh inning for a pinch-runner.
SUBBING FOR SANDOVAL
Rookie Travis Shaw filled in nicely at third base for Sandoval, throwing out Simmons after going to his knees to make a play in the fifth inning. Shaw was 0 for 4 and is still looking for his first major league hit.