Dempster not spectacular, but steady

BOSTON -- On the surface, Ryan Dempster’s start Sunday afternoon does not garner much attention. But mixed in with his six innings of three-run ball in a 10-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels were a handful of notable items.

To begin with, Dempster put forth his third straight quality start after a three-start slump in May. He let up two solo homers and an RBI single but kept the damage to a minimum in picking up his second straight victory. The line is good but not great, but it is otherworldly compared to the three outings Dempster had against the Angels late last season, when he was rocked for 17 runs in 13 2/3 innings.

“They had my number last year,” he said. “Struggled with going up there and try to beat them. You always want to just continue to try to get better and make improvements. I was able to do that today, and go out there and get a win.”

Along the way, Dempster was able to pick up career strikeout No. 2,000, becoming the 69th player in baseball history to reach that mark and just the second born in Canada. He admits there will be a time when such milestones mean more, but in the midst of competition he barely batted an eye.

The same can be said for a minor incident in the top of the third inning, when Dempster drilled Albert Pujols, who had hit his eighth career home run against Dempster in the first. As he did when Pujols took him the opposite way with an impressive shot into the Red Sox bullpen, Dempster just looked for a new ball and went about his business.

He didn’t even see the burly slugger delivering a lengthy glare as he walked to first base.

“Did he stare? I didn’t notice,” Dempster said. “I was just trying to throw a pitch on the inside part of the plate and you've got to be able to get your plate. Just rode up a little hard and in.”

The veteran has gotten used to shrugging aside such matters. He gets plenty of experience doing so with home runs, of which he has surrendered 14, far and away the most on the staff. Dempster admits that it is easier knowing that the best offense in baseball and one of the best defenses in the game has his back. He also makes sure to serve up the dingers when the bases are clear; 12 of the 14 homers have been solo jobs.

“I think walks and hits before home runs can kind of do you in,” he said. “I’ve given up my share of home runs this year and I feel like most of them, or the vast majority of them, have been solo homers. When you have an offense like we have and a team that puts up as many runs as we do, those aren’t going to be the things that beat you.”

Dempster said that the one thing he appreciates about the milestone is that it means he has been able to pitch well for a long time. That ability to move on -- from a slump, from an injury, from a home run, from an angry Albert Pujols -- is what enables him to carry on.

“He’s able to kind of turn the page in the next at-bat, the next pitch and that’s something that’s not easy to do, which is why he’s been successful for so long,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.

Dempster also has moved on from a groin issue that dogged him last month.

“When he’s able to leverage the ball and throw the ball downhill, and that’s more or less making sure and feeling that his lower half, in particular the groin area, that that’s not restricting him,” manager John Farrell said. “And when it’s not, this is what he’s capable of doing. So there was that three-start stretch that we’ve referred to that it was ailing him. Just another solid performance by him. The 2,000th strikeout in his career speaks volumes for the longevity and productivity of him.

“And a very good start on his part today.”