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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz doesn’t skip a beat in helping Red Sox best Rays

09.10.13 at 10:20 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz didn't allow a run in his five innings Tuesday night. (AP)

Clay Buchholz didn’t allow a run in his five innings Tuesday night. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ninety-four days evidently didn’t make that much of a difference.

Other than having some limitations put on his pitch count, Clay Buchholz looked a whole lot like the pitcher that had dominated American League batters up until his last start, June 8. The Red Sox starter threw five innings (74 pitches), allowing three hits and no runs while striking out six and walking one.

The end result was a 2-0 win for the Red Sox Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, pushing John Farrell’s team’s lead in the American League East to 8 1/2 games.

The win pushes Buchholz’ record to 10-0, with the righty’s ERA dropping from 1.71 to 1.61. He continues to be the second Red Sox hurler ever to go undefeated with at least nine wins in his first 12 starts, joining Roger Clemens (11-0 through 12 starts in 1986).

After Buchholz, the bullpen came on and upheld its side of things. First was Craig Breslow, who notched two scoreless innings, leading up to Junichi Tazawa, who got two quick outs before allowing a double to Yunel Escobar. That paved the way for Koji Uehara.

The Red Sox closer got Wil Myers to pop up to first base on just three pitches to end the threat in eighth. Uehara proceeded to need just 10 pitches to manage his third four-out save of the season, while pushing his scoreless inning streak to 28 1/3. The righty also tied Daniel Bard for the team record for most consecutive scoreless outings (25).

Uehara has now retired each of his last 31 batters faced, extending his record streak for a Red Sox reliever and tying Hideo Nomo for the longest streak by any Sox hurler since Nomo retired 31 straight from May 25-31, 2001.

Making the win even more satisfactory for the Red Sox was that they beat Tampa Bay ace David Price, who held the Sox to just three hits and two runs over eight innings. The 127 pitches by Price were a career-high for the lefty, and the most thrown by a Tampa Bay pitcher since Victor Zambrano tossed 128 in ’04.

It marked the ninth straight game the Sox have come out on top when facing a lefty starter, having lost eight of 10 in such situations before the streak.

The win also highlighted a dramatic turnaround for both teams since Aug. 24, when the Rays found themselves percentage points ahead of the Red Sox in the race for first-place. Since then, Tampa Bay is a major-league worst 4-12, having batted just .181 with runners in scoring position while averaging 2.7 runs per game during that span entering the series opener.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ 88th win of the season:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Chicago’s Jose Quintana remained the only pitcher to hold this Red Sox team hitless through the first five innings this season, with Mike Napoli breaking up Price’s no-hitter leading off the fifth.

- The Red Sox made the most of Napoli’s double to deep center with Jonny Gomes following it up with a single to left, which outfielder Matt Joyce couldn’t fire home fast enough to prevent the game’s first run.

- Daniel Nava executed his fifth-inning sacrifice bunt perfectly, moving Gomes over to third with one out. The play eventually helped the Sox plate their second run, coming on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia sacrifice fly. It marked the 231st RBI for the Red Sox with a runner on third and less than two outs, most in the majors.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Dustin Pedroia’s first stint as a leadoff hitter since Oct. 3, 2009 initially ran into some trouble. The second baseman was punched out twice for just the 15th time this season, although he did manage a ninth-inning base-hit (and stolen base) to salvage his night.

- Stephen Drew went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts against Price, making the shortstop hitless in 10 at-bats against the lefty.

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