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Closing Time: Red Sox continue to cruise through April, topple Astros

04.26.13 at 10:59 pm ET
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Other than dealing with an excruciatingly methodical pace, the Red Sox had little problem former Sox pitcher Erik Bedard Friday night.

The Sox hit three of their four home runs against the Astros’€™ starter on the way to a 7-3 win over Houston at Fenway Park. The lefty finished giving up five runs on eight hits over three innings.

Bedard’€™s counterpart, Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster, managed to pick up his first win of the season, allowing two runs over six innings. Dempster continued his trend of living the life as a strikeout pitcher, fanning 10 more, giving the righty 43 over his five starts. The Sox hurler began the game by striking out four of the first five Astros he faced.

The Red Sox pitchers set a new team record for most strikeouts in a single month with 232 K’s. (The previous record was set September 2000).

‘€œRyan did a great job. He always does,” said Red Sox catcher David Ross. “He knows how to pitch. He establishes his fastball in and out and he’€™s a typical veteran pitcher. Knows when he wants to use his heater. Threw some great 3-2 sliders early on in the game to keep their hitters off balanced. He had like a Bugs Bunny splitty tonight. I think it was really working good on some of those guys. It was like some Nintendo stuff going out there. he did a great job. A really good job.’€

When asked what a “Bugs Bunny splitty” was, Ross said, “It’€™s like the video game one. a really good one. It’€™s like better than the Yosemite Sam one.’€

Offensively, Ross led the way with a pair of home runs while finishing with four hits. (It was the catcher’€™s first four-hit game of his career.) Also homering for the hosts were David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks. The Sox totaled a season-high 17 hits

“I thought we had an excellent approach against Bedard, considering the number of pitches he threw through three-plus innings, we were able to get into their bullpen fairly early again tonight,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When we got some fastballs on the plate, we did a very good job of driving the baseball.

“Considering 17 hits, and I don’t want to say it could’ve been a little bit more on the runs total, but overall, just a very good approach from the plate.”

With the Red Sox’€™ 16th win of the season (16-7), Farrell’€™s team matches a club record for longest continuous stretch that a Sox team has ever been in first-place to begin a season. They are now one win away from the club record for most wins in the month of April (set in 1998 and 2003).

Here is what went right (and wrong) for the American League East-leading Red Sox:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Dustin Pedroia got things going for the Red Sox with his fourth extra-base hit of the season, a double off the left field wall to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury. It was Pedroia’€™s second double in the last three games after managing two in the first 20 games. With the run, the Red Sox have now outscored their opponents, 17-3, in the first inning. (Pedroia would notch another double in the third inning.)

– Ross launched a Bedard fastball well over the left field wall for his second home run of the season. The solo shot ‘€“ which was the Sox’€™ 20th of the season (11 of which have come at Fenway) ‘€“ was Ross’€™ first hit in the last 10 days. He then, of course, added his second homer of the game in the fourth. It was the 11th time the catcher has tallied a multiple-homer game.

- Mike Napoli set two new records for the Red Sox, coming away with his 17th and 18th extra-base hits, as well as his 12th and 13th double, the most of any player for the month of April. Napoli‘€™s third-inning two-bagger, a shot down the left-field line, scored Pedroia with the hosts’€™ third run, while his double in the seventh hit off the base of the center field wall.

– Middlebrooks hit his sixth homer of the season, lofting a Bedard changeup over the wall in left. It was his first home run of the season against a left-hander. The third baseman’€™s homer was immediately followed by Ross’€™ blast, marking the third time this season the Red Sox have come away with back-to-back homers.

– Ortiz kept the home run barrage going with his second in as many nights, just clearing the center field fence with a solo blast in the fifth inning.

– Ellsbury’€™s 11th stolen bases of the season is a Red Sox record for the month of April.

“The biggest thing is Jake has got a real good feel for key points or trigger points on a given pitcher to be able to pick that out and get a very good jump,” Farrell said. “When he gets a very good jump, when he gets a good jump, regardless of if it’s a decent unloading time by the given pitcher, he feels confident and we’re confident in his base stealing ability. There was some question or reluctance in spring training and wondering if he was ever going to be aggressive, but I think he’s really showing that.

“When he’s healthy, he’s one of the more dynamic players in the big leagues. Whether it’s on the base paths or the ability for extra base potential in the box, he’s doing that again.”

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Bedard was painfully slow, with the game needing 1-hour, 30-minutes to get through three innings. The Astros’€™ starter needed 91 pitches to get through three innings.

– With the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth, Ellsbury’s line-drive up the middle was caught by shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who threw to third baseman Matt Dominguez to double off Middlebrooks. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Jonny Gomes stepped up to knock in his first two RBI as a member of the Red Sox with a two-run single.

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