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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz dominates, leading Red Sox to 6-2 win over White Sox

05.22.13 at 11:27 pm ET
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For most of Wednesday night, the Red Sox offense was utterly subdued by White Sox pitching. Yet even before Boston broke out its lumber and blew open the game in the final two innings, the offensive shortcomings proved irrelevant thanks to the (once-again) masterful work of Clay Buchholz, who dominated in Boston’s 6-2 road win at U.S. Cellular Field.

David Ortiz drove in a pair of Red Sox runs with a bloop single in the first inning, and that was all Buchholz (7-0) needed as he only allowed one run and five hits with four strikeouts and three walks over seven innings pitched (113 pitches). He didn’t have his best stuff, working through some jams and holding White Sox hitters 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Buchholz earned his first decision in his last four starts, as he had been stuck at six wins since May 1. The 28-year-old is now tied with Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and Indians pitcher Justin Masterson for second in the American League in wins, and leads the league with a 1.73 ERA.

“I felt good overall,” Buchholz told reporters. “Had that little first-inning wait. I couldn’€™t really get into sync there and I walked a couple guys. I felt like I threw some good pitches and didn’€™t get the benefit of the doubt on the call. Battled through that with a couple good defensive plays. After that, I felt pretty good. Got the ground balls when I wanted but they weren’t hit hard enough to turn two. I was definitely still fortunate to give up one run to a team like that.”

The start has been spectacular but not fluky. Over the last full calendar year, dating to last May 22, Buchholz has a 2.84 ERA (tied with Felix Hernandez for the second best among AL starters, minimum 162 innings). Since the start of last year, he has 20 starts of at least seven innings permitting two or fewer runs, tied for the third most in the AL during the span.

“He had to pitch around some men on base. He continued to take his time and make quality pitches,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell regarding Buchholz. “He put a number of balls on the ground that, for whatever reason, whether it was the soft grounds, didn’€™t have the pace that normally are turned to double plays that might have prevented some of that pitch count that got up there. he kept us in check, [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] with two outstanding throws to second base to cut down would-be baserunners. A solid performance on his part once again.’€

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

-  The Red Sox got things started on the right foot when Ortiz drove in two runs on a softly hit single to left field in the first inning. The hit followed a double off the wall from Dustin Pedroia that left him and Jonny Gomes in scoring position. Ortiz — who went 2-for-4 — has cooled off a bit since his scorching hot start to the season, but he has still been hitting well as of late. In his last 10 games, Ortiz is batting .375/.432/.600 with 14 RBI.

– With Napoli on first and Daniel Nava at the plate in the first inning, Ortiz surprised everyone by stealing third base. Ortiz did not score on the play, but it was unexpected considering that it was the 12th stolen base of the slugger’s career — his first since June 21, 2011 — and marked the first time he’d ever stolen third in his long career.

Jacoby Ellsbury matched a season-high by reaching base four times, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. It was his first multi-hit game since May 4. That both of his hits were singles did continue a pattern, as each of the leadoff hitter’s last seven hits has been for one base. His last extra-base knock came on May 11. Obviously, offense from Ellsbury represents something that the Sox crave. Entering the game, he’d been hitting .151 with a .262 OBP from the top of the order in his last 13 games.

“I feel like I’ve been having some pretty good ABs,” Ellsbury told reporters. “Fortunately tonight, found some grass in the outfield. I’ve had quite a few of those same swings on balls, just haven’t gotten out there. It’s just sticking with the plan. you talk about that, but having a good approach, if you have a good approach, good plan, it’s a matter of time before good things happen.”

– First baseman Mike Napoli was signed in no small part because he coupled tremendous raw power with an ability to get on base at an impressive clip due to his affinity for walks. But while the former had been amply evident at stages of the season, the latter had been surprisingly absent. That, however, is now changing. Napoli went 1-for-2 with three walks on Wednesday, and in his last six contests, he now has nine walks en route to a .278/.519/.278 line.

– White Sox runners had no luck trying to steal against Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as he threw out both Alejandro De Aza and Alex Rios each attempting to take second base. The 28-year-old had been 1-for-19 trying to throw out runners this season before Wednesday, but was 2-for-2 on the night.

Koji Uehara had a dominant eighth inning, punching out a pair while retiring the side in order on nine pitches.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Red Sox hitters did not have much trouble with Santiago in the first inning, but after a coaching visit to the mound five batters into the game their bats went cold. After the mound visit, Hector Santiago struck out nine batters while only allowing one hit — a single that snuck underneath shortstop Alexei Ramirez‘€™s glove. Boston did its damage early, but if not for another strong performance, the team could have been in considerable danger of a sweep.

– The only White Sox run could have been prevented had Stephen Drew made a good throw to Pedroia on a Ramirez ground ball with runners on first and second. Had Drew’€™s throw not been too high, Pedroia would not have had to jump for the ball and he could have turned an inning-ending double play. Instead, Ramirez reached safely at first and Tyler Flowers made it to third base, where he scored from on a single by Rios.

Drew was not charged with an error on the play and Buchholz limited the damage by striking out Adam Dunn to end the inning, but the White Sox could have been held scoreless if not for the failed double play.

Andrew Bailey, in his first appearance since coming off the DL, permitted a monstrous homer to Paul Konerko in the ninth inning in a non-save situation. Still, he struck out one and threw 9 of 11 pitches for strikes in his first appearance since April 28.

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