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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 7, Astros 2

By Gordon Edes



BOSTON -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig prides himself as a keen student of history, and would have no trouble rattling off the names of great orators from our fair state, be it Cotton Mather or Edward Everett Hale, Daniel Webster or William Lloyd Garrison, Edward Kennedy or David Ortiz.

You read that right. The commish, speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors meeting in New York on Thursday, was asked about Ortiz's speech at Saturday's pregame ceremonies, the one in which Ortiz punctuated his feelings with an expletive common to the clubhouse, unprecedented over the Fenway Park public address system.

"It was really emotional for me," Selig said, according to USA Today. "I actually cried through the whole ceremony. I'm not afraid to tell you that. On one hand it was so uplifting, so sad in another way.

"I agree with the FCC. I thought David Ortiz's choice of words was outstanding, given what he was trying to say. I mean that sincerely."

If you're scoring at home, make that F-bombs 1, Bluenoses 0.

Ortiz threw his head back and laughed when told of Selig's response after Boston's 7-2 win over Houston Thursday night at Fenway Park.

"That's my man," he said. "That's my main man right there. That guy loves me. He's a good dude, man."

Ortiz, meanwhile, hasn't stopped being heard, only this time he's letting his palo do his talking for him. Roughly translated, that's "big stick" in Spanish, which is what Ortiz has been swinging since being activated Saturday.

Totally shredding the notion that six weeks of spring training serves any functional purpose beyond baseball promoting its coming season, Ortiz had three more hits Thursday, including his first home run of 2013, a big fly in the third inning that landed just over the garage door in center field. He has 11 hits in his first 20 at-bats, a .550 average.

"I've been working at trying to stay short and quick to the ball, not trying to do too much," said Ortiz, who has now hit in 17 straight games going back to last season, his longest streak as a member of the Red Sox and two games shy of the 19-game streak he had with Minnesota in 2002.

"It's even better when you join a lineup where everybody's swinging the bat pretty good; it's less pressure."

ESPN's home run tracker measured the true distance of Ortiz's home run at 439 feet, making it his longest at Fenway Park since Sept. 27, 2007.

How'd that home run swing feel? "Feels good," he said. "Crushed it."

Clay Buchholz, Will Middlebrooks
Clay Buchholz, who improved to 5-0, congratulates Will Middlebrooks after a big double play in the fourth inning.
Ortiz, who also singled in a run and scored in Boston's four-run first and singled and scored in the fifth, cleared the way for Clay Buchholz to become the major leagues' first five-game winner, Buchholz having claimed a favorable decision in each of his first five starts.

"It's remarkable the timing he's displayed, especially after the layoff he's had," Sox manager John Farrell said. "I think even guys in the dugout are marveling at what he's been able to do, not only in making contact, but driving the ball."

The dugout was just as impressed, Buchholz said, when Ortiz went from first to third on Mike Carp's single in the fifth. "Everybody was yelling and screaming," he said.

Despite not having a feel for the two-seam fastball he has come to rely on heavily, Buchholz became the first Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007 to win his first five starts. Beckett wound up winning 20 that season, then tacked on a fabulous postseason as the Red Sox won the World Series.

Leadoff doubles in the second and third innings both resulted in runs for the Astros, inflating Buchholz's ERA from 0.90 before the game to a mere 1.19 after he departed with two outs in the eighth inning. According to Elias, his ERA is the lowest by a Sox pitcher through five starts since Roger Clemens posted a 0.66 ERA over a similar span in 1991.

Buchholz did not win his fifth game until June 1 last season, then ended the season with just 2 wins in his last 11 starts, finishing 2012 with 11 wins and a 4.56 ERA.

"Things are going right," he said Thursday night. "Balls that were hit for home runs last year when I was missing in the middle of the zone are being fouled off. It's not always that way, so you've got to savor it while it is. Everybody has their rough outings."

He walked two and struck out 10, the second time in three starts he has reached double figures in whiffs. He set down 11 straight between the leadoff walk he issued to Rick Ankiel in the fifth until Jose Altuve's single to center with two out in the eighth.

"He didn't have his best stuff," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said, "but it shows how talented he is, how good he is, to go out without his best stuff, eat up innings for us, and do the job."

Andrew Miller recorded the last out of the eighth before Daniel Bard made his first appearance of 2013, allowing a two-out single but then retiring Matt Dominguez on a comebacker for the final out, making him the pitcher who got all the handshakes and high-fives.

The Sox have now won the first game of all eight series they've played this season, and are 11-0 in games in which they scored first.

The Astros, meanwhile, are making their debut in the American League a painful one, falling to 7-15. Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game almost a year ago to the day, was racked for 7 runs on 10 hits, in his first start since giving up eight runs in a third of an inning against Cleveland.