|Closing Time: Red Sox win on Mike Aviles’ ninth-inning single||07.24.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
Mike Aviles had already left four runners on base in the game, but with two outs in the top of the ninth he came through with a perfectly lofted single over the head of shortstop Elvis Andrus to drive in Daniel Nava, give the Red Sox a 2-1 win and bring them back to .500.
Clay Buchholz pitched another gem for the Red Sox, but once again Boston’s offense was unable to provide him the run support to get him a win. Buchholz has back-to-back no-decisions in which he has only allowed two runs in 15 innings pitched.
The Red Sox struggled against young lefty Martin Perez, who only allowed one run on five hits in six innings. However, Boston did a good job of working his pitch count and getting to the bullpen by the seventh inning.
A lack of run support has become a theme for the Red Sox against the Rangers, as they have only scored eight runs in four games against Texas this season. However, the combination of Buchholz, Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves was enough to hold off Texas’ big bats and give Boston its first win against the Rangers this season.
The Red Sox will send Josh Beckett to the mound on Wednesday against Derek Holland to try to win the road series before their trip to Yankee Stadium on Friday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
• Buchholz continues to be the Red Sox’ best starter, as he put together another excellent and efficient outing on Tuesday night. The 27-year-old only allowed one run in the game, when a fielder’s choice pushed Andrus across the plate in the sixth inning. Buchholz only allowed four hits, three walks and one earned run on 105 pitches through seven innings.
What might be the most important aspect of Buchholz’s performances as of late is how deep into the games he has been pitching. The Texas native has lasted at least six innings in his past eight starts, three of which he has lasted eight innings or more. Buchholz’s efficiency and stamina has helped preserve a bullpen that has been relied on a lot this season.
• Aviles drove in the game-winning run in the ninth inning with a looping base hit over Andrus. Nava, who had walked for the eighth time in 18 games in July, scored the game-winning run on the hit.
• With a runner on first in the fourth inning, Kelly Shoppach drove a long fly ball to the warning track in right field. David Murphy tracked the ball down but could not make the catch as the ball bounced off his glove, allowing Cody Ross to score all the way from first base while Shoppach was awarded an RBI double.
The hit was Shoppach’s second double and third RBI of July, a month in which he has only started seven games ahead of regular starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
• Buchholz ran into a small jam in the fifth inning when he allowed runners on first and second with only one out. However, Craig Gentry hit a ground ball to Will Middlebrooks, who made a nice stop, tagged third and then zipped the ball over to first, where Adrian Gonzalez made a full stretch to keep his foot on the bag and convert the double play. Gonzalez also made a nice catch along the stands for the final out in the ninth inning.
Gonzalez has a .995 fielding percentage this season, and the nice play at first was representative of why putting him back at his natural position instead of out in right field puts him in a better spot to help the team.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
• After back-to-back hitless games, Carl Crawford did not have any better production hitting from the seventh spot in the Red Sox lineup, going 0-for-3 before being replaced by Nava in the seventh inning.
Crawford provided a spark to the Red Sox lineup in his first three games back from injury, going 5-for-10 with six runs and three stolen bases in that span. However, since July 19, the day after trade rumors surfaced involving him being dealt to the Marlins, the 30-year-old is 2-for-16 with no stolen bases and five strikeouts.
• While the Red Sox drove up Perez’s pitch count in the inning, Aviles could not convert with the bases loaded and two outs with a 3-0 count. Aviles let Perez back into the count with back-to-back strikes before floating a fly ball into the glove of Murphy in right field to end the threat.
Later, Aviles flew out again with a runner on second and two outs, bringing his total to four runners left on base — before his ninth-inning heroics.
The Red Sox have struggled with runners in scoring position and two outs this season, only batting .235 on the season in such situations. However, if the Red Sox were to have anyone up in that situation, Aviles would have been the player they wanted, as he has a .364 batting average and 22 RBIs in 44 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position.
• Red Sox pitchers made a couple of mistakes to move Andrus over to third base twice in the game. First, in the sixth inning, Buchholz threw a wild pitch that moved Andrus from second to third, from where he would score the Rangers’ first run on a fielder’s choice. Later, Padilla tried to throw over to first after already attempting to pick off Andrus, throwing the ball past Gonzalez and allowing him to scamper over to third.
While Andrus only scored following one of those mistakes, the Red Sox cannot afford to be making mistakes with runners on base, especially in close games with the offense struggling.
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