Commentary

Red Sox win comes just in time

Clay Buchholz, Mike Aviles deliver in slump-busting victory over Rangers

Updated: July 25, 2012, 3:57 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Boston Red Sox entered Tuesday's game against the Texas Rangers riding a four-game losing skid. Nothing had been going right for the club, and the Red Sox desperately needed a game in which timely hitting and strong starting pitching led them to victory.

Boston finally received both in a 2-1 win over Texas at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Even though Clay Buchholz had to settle for a no-decision, he was solid and remains the ace of the Red Sox staff. The right-hander worked seven innings and allowed only one run on four hits with three walks and one strikeout, but reliever Vicente Padilla (0-4) earned the win, while closer Alfredo Aceves recorded his 21st save.

While Boston's pitching was seamless, its offense did just enough in key situations to score the two runs needed for the win. The game was tied at 1-1 when Mike Aviles provided the go-ahead RBI single off Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the top of the ninth.

"That's the key to baseball," said Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, who drove in the team's only other run with a RBI double in the fourth inning. "Your starter's got to give you a chance to win and you've got to get the hit when it comes up.

"We had a couple of situations tonight, and give [Texas] a lot of credit, they threw the ball well, but Mike was able to stick his bat out there and plop one in there late. I've faced Nathan a few times and that's a tough AB. I'm happy for Mike and happy for us because ultimately you've got to pitch well and get timely hitting to win games."

Boston's starting rotation has struggled all season and that's one of the main reasons the Red Sox remain at the bottom of the AL East. But Buchholz has consistently been pitching well for the past two months despite a stint on the disabled list with a bout of gastrointestinal bleeding.

On Tuesday, he went seven innings for the sixth time in his past eight starts.

"Every starter goes out there to do one thing and that's try to go out there and pitch as deep into the game as you can to give the team a chance to win," Buchholz said. "It's a tough team to score against and a tough team to hold down, too. It was really good that we came out with a win tonight."

[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star/Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesClay Buchholz, who had a 7.84 ERA through nine starts, has a 2.47 ERA in his past eight.

In a season in which both Jon Lester (5-8) and Josh Beckett (5-8) have struggled, Buchholz has looked more like the pitcher who went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010 following a rocky start.

Since May 27, when Buchholz's ERA was 7.84 through nine starts, the right-hander is 4-1 with three no-decisions and a 2.47 ERA.

If not for his solid contributions, the Red Sox would be in a much worse situation.

The lone run Buchholz allowed on Tuesday came after a double by the Rangers' Elvis Andrus, who then reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a 6-3 groundout by Josh Hamilton. Other than that, Buchholz shut the Rangers down.

"Buchholz was fantastic," manager Bobby Valentine said. "The ball that got by Kelly just caught his glove, otherwise it would have been a shutout. He made a great pitch to Hamilton, jammed him, and he got a RBI on it, but Clay was super. He was outstanding."

At one point, Shoppach realized it wasn't the typical outing for Buchholz, especially in this ballpark, where he had been 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in two previous starts.

Buchholz actually began to tire in the sixth but was able to hold it together and keep the explosive Rangers at bay.

"He was able to really get through that game in a limited number of pitches by really exposing their aggressiveness," Shoppach said. "He was getting behind in counts and then he was able to sink the ball or cut the ball and get some outs on them. It was a very weird outing and this place always seems to be weird, especially when it's hot."

After his rough start, Buchholz has been pitching with confidence.

"It's all about a comfort level, and whenever you're out there and you're comfortable throwing pitches to both sides of the plate and letting them work instead of going out and trying to force it to work," Buchholz said. "The results might not be what you want every time out, but it's the process of getting to that point and knowing it works and you can go out and trust it."

The Red Sox trust Buchholz. They need to trust Buchholz. He and Felix Doubront have been the lone bright spots in the rotation for the majority of the season and they'll need to keep it up for the Red Sox to stay in contention.

"For a while he's been throwing his ball as well as anybody, not only for us but around the league," Shoppach said of Buchholz. "I'm happy for him. He's a hard worker and when he's out there, he's competing. He's quite a competitor, and we feel good when he takes the mound every time."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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