After the offense-heavy games in the Bronx, it was somewhat of a relief to see that good pitching can still get the job done. Back at Fenway for a pair of games against Minnesota, the Sox used a long, strong performance by Clay Buchholz to earn a 3-2 victory and move back over the .500 mark they’ve been straddling for much of the year.
Earlier in the day, Boston sent Josh Beckett to the disabled list with back stiffness, a move that pushed Tim Wakefield back into the rotation and ratcheted up the need for quality starts. Buchholz responded with an gem of 8+ innings, allowing only 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 7.
If not for the combination of Denard Span and Joe Mauer, the Boston righty might have earned himself a complete game shutout. As it was, the duo rapped a pair of doubles in the fourth to put the Twins up 1-0. They accounted for Minnesota’s other run in the ninth thanks to an infield single and an RBI groundout. For the second straight game, the Red Sox allowed a ninth-inning run following defensive indifference. In both cases, the Sox managed to hang on for victory, but perhaps Terry Francona should rethink his strategy with regard to holding runners late in games. On Wednesday, it was Span moving to second, then taking third on the inning’s first out, a grounder by Orlando Hudson. Mauer then drove him in to tighten Boston’s lead to 1.
Fortunately Daniel Bard was able to prevent further damage, earning his first save of the year in the process. The best aspect of Buchholz’s start was that Bard was the only reliever needed; some rest for the bullpen couldn’t have come at a better time. Boston’s relievers had been pressed into lengthy duty in each of the games against the Yanks, going 4.1 innings on Monday and Tuesday.
The good pitching also meant that the offense didn’t have to carry the load. The Sox were able to rack up 10 hits, 8 off of Twins’ starter Scott Baker. But Baker limited Boston to 3 runs over 6 innings and Minnesota’s bullpen did its job as well. In the end, the 3 ruins proved sufficient.
Boston scored on a 2-run jack by David Ortiz in the fourth. Big Papi’s monster May just keeps getting better and better as he smashed his seventh dinger of the month and eighth of the season. In the sixth, a trio of singles by Adrian Beltre, Jeremy Hermida, and Bill Hall gave Boston it’s all-important third run.
Hall replaced Marco Scutaro in the lineup, a day after Scoots made 2 errors that nearly cost Boston a win.
With a quarter of the seaosn gone, the Sox are still struggling with mediocrity, but this month has come with a number of encouraging signs. Ortiz and Victor Martinez have rebounded at the plate, and for the most part, the starting pitching has been good enough to win. Matsuzaka remains a concern and Beckett’s injury is a setback. The pressure will be on Tim Wakefield to perform well in his upcoming spot starts.
But for the time being, such concerns can wait. Tonight’s game features Boston’s most reliable arm as Jon Lester goes against Francisco Liriano. The Sox will try to win their third straight before heading to Philadelphia for the first interleague series of the year.
That series might include the return of Jacoby Ellsbury, who is currently have a successful rehab stint for AA Portland.