BOSTON -- It didn’t take too long for Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster to shake off the rust Friday night.
He hadn't pitched since Aug. 18, when he earned a five-game suspension for hitting New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez with a pitch. On Friday Dempster walked Chicago White Sox leadoff man Alejandro De Aza on eight pitches before following up with a six-pitch walk to Gordon Beckham.
In stepped Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez, coming off his first day off of the season Wednesday night. Dempster wasted no time welcoming him back, promptly getting Ramirez to ground into a double play before escaping the first-inning jam by striking out Adam Dunn on a slider.
“I thought the biggest pitch he made of the night was the ground-ball double play to Ramirez in the first,” manager John Farrell said. “Starts out with a couple of walks, things had a chance to build an inning against him. He shuts it off right there and gets a big strikeout to Dunn and then he settled in.”
Dempster retired the next nine hitters he faced on his way to pitching the Red Sox to a 4-3 win. Dempster didn’t allow a hit until a fifth-inning double from Paul Konerko, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing three runs on his way to his seventh win of the year.
“I felt good. My body felt really good and my arm felt really good,” Dempster said. “Worked hard in the time off I had to be as ready as possible and got good results because of it.”
In the 12 days between starts for Dempster, the 36-year-old worked on throwing his slider down and away to right-handed hitters, something he was able to cash in on early with against Ramirez in the first.
“That’s your hope is that when you throw it down there the result you’re going to get is a ground ball somewhere,” Dempster said.
“If you can make the ball go in a couple of different directions but in the same area then you can leave a hitter off-balance. When you’re not hitting that spot they don’t have to honor it as much so when you’re consistently hitting that spot you’re going to get better results and get ahead in the count.”
Good results are something the Red Sox’s pitching staff has been familiar with over their past 10 games. During that time, the team has held opposing teams to no more than eight hits or three runs each time out, something that hasn’t been done since the Atlanta Braves did it in 1993. This Red Sox team may not have John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or Steve Avery, but Dempster still thinks they’re doing just fine.
“They’ve done an unbelievable job, all of us in the rotation," Dempster said. "I’m glad I could just slide in and do a little bit of my part. What the guys did on the road trip was pretty special, to go out there and throw the ball as well as they all did. Hopefully that’s just something we continue to build off of.”