Norris holds onto early lead (Machado homers, O’s lead 2-1)

BOSTON - Before tonight, Orioles starter Bud Norris had posted a 6.31 ERA in the first inning this season. It dropped to 1.80 in the second and 1.08 in the third, jumped to 8.28 in the fourth, dropped to 2.19 in the fifth and rose to 6.27 in the sixth.

Norris has allowed 18 runs in the first, 23 in the fourth and 17 in the sixth. Those are the danger zones.

The Orioles gave Norris a 1-0 lead in the top of the first tonight, and he took good care of it in the bottom half, stranding Jacoby Ellsbury after a leadoff walk and stolen base.

Shane Victorino, who had a career-high seven RBIs last night, lined to short for the first out. Norris made a sensational barehanded pickup and off-balance throw near the third base line to retire Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz flied to deep left.

Manny Machado reached on an infield hit and scored all the way from first base on Chris Davis’ double to right field. Machado is 5-for-8 lifetime against Red Sox starter John Lackey. Davis is 10-for-24 with five RBIs.

Wilson Betemit is making his first start for the Orioles tonight since going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in a Sept. 13, 2012 game against Tampa Bay.

“It’s a big night for him,” Showalter said. “If nothing else, just getting back all the way. I was really glad we could get him in the game last night.”

Betemit, who replaced Davis at first base and grounded out to conclude a 13-2 loss to the Red Sox, was supposed to be the Orioles’ left-handed designated hitter this season.

How much tougher has it been without Betemit?

“It would have been easier with him, but it’s just one phase of the game that you’ve got to be good at to compete with the Red Sox of the world,” Showalter said. “There’s some unknown about what level he’s going to return at, but there’s only one way to find out.

“I’m sure he’s a little tentative. I watched him between innings. He looked fine. But to think he’s going to come back and be the exact same physical runner, I’d be surprised, but he could be. Ask me tonight. We got our time down the line yesterday on him. We’ll see.

“None of us are what we once were.”

Speak for yourself.

Update: Machado homered over the Green Monster to increase the Orioles’ lead to 2-0 in the third.

It could have been more, except Brian Roberts was thrown out trying to steal third base. He swiped second after walking.

Machado has 12 home runs and 48 multi-hit games this season. He’s now 6-for-9 with two homers lifetime against Lackey.

Down on the farm, Ryan Flaherty was supposed to start at second base tonight for Single-A Delmarva, but he was switched to designated hitter because of the field conditions. He will remain with Delmarva through Thursday night before reporting to Single-A Frederick.

Update II: Norris has walked three batters in three innings. His season high is four.

The Red Sox cut the Orioles’ lead to 2-1 in the third on Shane Victorino’s eighth RBI in two nights, and they loaded the bases with one out. However, Norris struck out David Ortiz and Daniel Nava to end the inning.

Nick Markakis doubled in the fourth inning - his second in the last three games.

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