I’m wary of getting psyched too early, but it really seems like we’re starting to get on the right track. They key, of course, is to stay on the right track, which as we know from experience is much easier said than done. Still, you have to start somewhere, and scoring a lot of runs to support solid pitching performances seems like a good place.
To be fair, it’s not like Buchholz’s start was that solid. It may have meant a loss for us in some of the games we’ve been playing to start the season. Fortunately, the offense picked up his slack, but if they hadn’t, the outcome of the game probably wouldn’t have been so good.
He picked up the win for the first time since June 16, 2011 but gave up five runs on six innings. He walked three and struck out five. He threw 104 pitches in seven innings, sixty-six of which were strikes. Obviously, most of his pitches were offspeeds; he used an effective combination of cutters, curveballs, and changeups, with his fastball topping out at ninety-three miles per hour.
He definitely settled in as the game went on. His first inning was rough, and it was when most of the damage was done. Twenty-seven pitches after the game started, he’d given up four runs in that frame alone: a walk, an RBI double, a groundout, a strikeout, another walk, and a three-run home run to right on a full-count fastball. Needless to say, I’m sure the offense didn’t appreciate having to go to bat in a hole already.
But as I said, he settled down after that; he allowed another run in the third on via a four-pitch walk and a double, but other than that, he was pretty clean. He threw sixteen pitches in the second, eighteen in the third, thirteen each in the fourth and fifth, and only nine in the sixth and seven in the seventh. Not coincidentally, the sixth and seventh were also his only two one-two-three innings; he retired twelve of his last thirteen batters.
Morales received a hold for the eighth, and Aceves saw the minimum in the ninth. Neither reliever allowed a baserunner.
Meanwhile, the offense was essentially taking batting practice. It was awesome to see two run-heavy performances back-to-back; it’s food for morale, and it’s most certainly food for momentum. And the best part is that it was a true slugfest because we did it mostly with the long ball.
Salty got us on the bard in the second with a two-run shot (Sweeney had walked on five pitches) on a changeup straight back to the center field seats, which is no small feat considering how deep that part of the park is; it takes serious power to launch the ball out there. It landed in the covered seats. The changeup was down and away, so he totally went golfing with that one.
The very next inning, Pedroia hit a solo shot on a fastball to left. He cleared the Green Monster completely; the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street. The trend continues; the fastball was high.
In the fifth, Youk singled and Papi went yard to the bullpen and tied the game at five, but we were about to leave the Rays in the dust.
The sixth was the only inning in which we went down in order, but we more than made up for it. Aviles led off the seventh with a homer on a slider down and in the middle into the Monster seats. If you want to make up for leaving the bases loaded in your previous at-bat, that’s a good way to do it. And after Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez doubled, Youk walked, and Papi singled to load the bases. Ross doubled, scoring two.
In the eighth, McDonald walked, Aviles doubled, and Pedroia singled to load the bases. Gonzalez grounded into a double play that saw McDonald out at home, but then Youk walked to re-load the bases, Papi hit a bases-clearing double. And then Ross hit a two-run shot on a changeup to left. He too cleared the Monster, and the ball ended up in Lansdowne Street.
So let’s tally it up. The final score was 13-5. We scored two in the second, one in the third, two in the fifth, three in the seventh, and five in the eighth. We posted fifteen hits; of those, ten were for extra bases, and of those, half were home runs, and of those, four were firsts of the season (only Pedroia had homered previously). Four members of the starting lineup had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for five with a home run and one RBI; Ross went two for five with a double and a home run and four RBIs; Aviles went three for five with a double and a home run and one RBI; and yesterday’s man of the hour, Big Papi, went four for five with a double, a home run, and five – count ‘em – five RBIs.
You know, for a team that’s been struggling, how refreshing was this? We entered the game with only two home runs, the fewest in all of Major League Baseball to date, and then look at us. As I’ve said, it was like a whole new team up there. Really. All we have to do is stay the course. If we play this way for the rest of the season, I’d think we’d be in pretty good shape.
In other news, the B’s lost the second playoff game, 2-1, to the Caps.