BoSox Banter The Destination for All Things Red Sox Tue, 21 Jun 2011 20:09:13 +0000 en hourly 1 Moving A-Gonz to right field for interleague play not worth the risk for Red Sox Tue, 21 Jun 2011 20:09:13 +0000 Jeff Louderback The phone rings, you answer and on the line is Theo Epstein. The general manager says Terry Francona is out and you are the new manager of the Boston Red Sox – just in time for interleague play on the road.

Epstein’s decision was long overdue. After all, many times you have said to yourself, “I can make better decisions than Francona, especially with the way he handles the bullpen and how he tends to leave a starting pitcher in one inning too long.” Unfortunately for you, a more significant decision immediately lingers. After the three-game series against the Padres concludes at Fenway Park on Wednesday, the Sox embark on a nine-game interleague road trip that features three-game series in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston.

The Boston media and Red Sox Nation want to know, “What will you do with Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz?”

Since the National League still employs the mindnumbingly boring rule of letting pitchers hit, there is no DH at NL parks. This poses a challenge for the Red Sox. Gonzalez, who is one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball, is also one of the best all-around hitters in the game. He has a .353 average with 15 home runs and 67 RBI. Ortiz, who can adequately play first base – though he lacks range – is batting .323 with 17 home runs and 48 RBI.

As the new Red Sox manager, do you play Gonzalez in right field and Ortiz at first to get both bats in the lineup? Gonzalez played right field sparingly in the minor leagues, but he would be defensively limited in the outfield. After all, Gonzalez is, ahem, quite slow.

Since Francona is still the manager in Red Sox reality, his is the decision that matters. He has told the media that Gonzalez has said he will play right field to get Ortiz in the lineup during the upcoming nine-game stretch.

It is unlikely that, even if Gonzalez does play right field, it will not be for all nine games. I think there is a simple answer for Francona. DO NOT put Gonzalez in the outfield for even one game.

Not only is Gonzalez not experienced enough to play the outfield in the majors, but also he could injure himself tracking down a fly ball. The ideal decision is to play Gonzalez at first base for six games and start Ortiz at first for three games so the latter does not lose his timing. In the six games Ortiz does not start, he can be used as a pinch-hitter so he can get an at-bat.

Starting Gonzalez in right and Ortiz at first would create defensive liabilities at two positions, though Ortiz is a better first baseman than most people believe. The Red Sox lineup is deep. Boston can afford to play without one of Ortiz and Gonzalez against Pittsburgh and Houston. The series against Philadelphia is another story, but the Sox will be at a disadvantage regardless because, if they play Gonzalez and Ortiz, the defense will suffer, and if they have one of the two not in the lineup, the offense will be a tad less potent, especially with Carl Crawford on the disabled list.

Francona should consider the long-term health of the Red Sox. The possibility of Gonzalez getting injured playing a position with which he is not familiar is alarming. Francona should not risk this happening just for the sake of getting both bats in the lineup. Strong starting pitching and production from the eight bats that are in the lineup during the nine-game stretch should be enough to have a winning road trip.

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10-run seventh, solid start by Andrew Miller propel Red Sox to 14-5 rout of Padres Tue, 21 Jun 2011 19:42:11 +0000 Jeff Louderback The Red Sox continued to get solid starting pitching and explosive offense, and they continued to pound National League pitching, last night against the San Diego Padres. This time, though, they received a boost from a new starting pitcher in a 14-5 rout of San Diego at Fenway Park.

Andrew Miller limited the Padres to three runs and seven hits over 5.2 innings – his lone blemish a poorly located fast ball that was deposited over the Green Monster for a three-run home run in the sixth by Orlando Hudson. It was Miller’s first start for the Red Sox after the first overall pick in the 2006 draft dominated Triple-A hitters at Pawtucket.

Miller was pulled after serving up a two-out double in the sixth to former Red Sox top prospect Anthony Rizzo. Matt Albers entered and induced an inning-ending ground out after walking a batter. The right-handed reliever tossed 1.1 scoreless innings and earned the win.

Though it is difficult to fathom based on the final score if you did not watch the game, Hudson’s three-run blast actually transformed a 3-0 Red Sox lead into a 3-3 tie. Then the bottom of the seventh happened.

Reliever Cory Luebke walked Jacoby Ellsbury to open the inning and after Dustin Pedroia grounded into a force out, hustling down the line to prevent a double play, Adrian Gonzalez belted an RBI double to give Boston a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Overall in the seventh, the Red Sox sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs off four San Diego pitchers. Boston scored nine of those runs with two outs. After Ernesto Frieri relieved Luebke and retired Kevin Youkilis on a fly out, he intentionally walked David Ortiz and then lost J.D. Drew to a walk to load the bases. Frieri then hit Marco Scutaro and Jason Varitek to force in runs.

Evan Scribner relieved Frieri and was greeted with a two-run single by Josh Reddick. Ellsbury followed with a walk to reload the bases and then walked Pedroia to force in a run and served up a two-run single to Gonzalez. Youkilis added a two-run double to give the Sox a 10-run inning and a 13-3 lead. That is when Pat Neshek was summoned and mercifully ended the onslaught by striking out Ortiz.

Gonzalez was 3-for-5 with three RBI and two runs against his former team. He is hitting .353 and has an American League leading 67 RBI.

Though he received a no-decision, Miller’s start was encouraging. He struck out six and walked three. The power lefty blanked the Padres through the first five innings, allowing just four hits. His command was off in the sixth in Hudson capitalized.

Tonight, the Red Sox rotation will see another new face when Alfredo Aceves gets the ball in place of Josh Beckett, who is ill. Aceves (3-1, 3.30 ERA) will be opposed by Mat Latos (4-8, 4.06 ERA).

The Red Sox are 44-28 and own a 1.5-game lead over the New York Yankees, which beat the Cincinnati Reds last night. Boston is 42-18 since starting the season 2-10.

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Buchholz gets a chance to rest his back, Miller gets opportunity to prove himself in the majors Mon, 20 Jun 2011 01:09:36 +0000 Jeff Louderback By Jeff Louderback

Michael Bowden can exhale. The right-handed reliever will not be optioned to Pawtucket for a third time this season – at least not yet. Clay Buchholz was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain (retroactive to June 17) and Andrew Miller was called up from Pawtucket to start Monday night against San Diego.

The DL stint will give Buchholz a chance to let him nagging back injury heal. The Red Sox hoped that pushing back his starts would help, but the timing is right for Buchholz to spend the rest of June getting treatment on his back. Tim Wakefield is pitching well, John Lackey is giving the Sox innings and Miller will get an opportunity to prove that he is ready to consistently get major league hitters out.

Buchholz is 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA. The 26-year-old right-hander has permitted 76 hits with 60 strikeouts and 31 walks in 14 starts and 82.2 innings. SInce the beginning of May, Buchholz has not lost in nine consecutive starts, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.59 ERA in that period. Buchholz ranks third among qualifying American League pitchers in both ERA (2.70) and winning percentage (.697) since the opening of the 2010 season.

With facts and numbers like that, it is obvious that the long-term health of Buchholz is more important than keeping him in the rotation, giving him an extra day or two of rest and hoping that solves his back strain. With Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Buchholz, Boston has one of the best 1-2-3 punches in baseball, and that is what wins World Series titles.

As for Miller, Monday’s start will give him and the Red Sox an early indication of whether or not his success at Pawtucket translates to the majors. Since the Padres are starved for offense, they are an ideal first opponent for the first overall pick of the 2006 draft. 

When he was selected number one by the Detroit Tigers, Miller was rushed to the majors after five innings in advanced Single-A. The results were not surprising – a 6.10 ERA in eight relief appearances.

The next season, Miller was bounced around three Tigers minor league affiliates and also made 13 starts for the major league ballclub, recording a 5.62 ERA.

At the winter meetings in 2007, Miller was the centerpiece of a trade that brought him to the Marlins in a package for Miguel Cabrera, but the Marlins did not learn from Detroit’s mistake. They, too, placed enormous pressure on Miller’s shoulders. Instead of helping him work on his mechanics and improve his erratic control, Florida  bounced him around four minor league affiliates and gave him 20 appearances (14 starts) where he had an improved 4.84 ERA but still had control problems as his 1.70 WHIP suggests.

Last season, it was so bad for Miller that he posted a 6.01 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP in 18 starts at Double-A Jacksonville and an 8.54 ERA and 2.36 WHIP in nine outings (seven starts) for the Marlins.

The Red Sox initially acquired Miller last off-season from the Marlins for left-handed relief prospect Dustin Richardson, who was recently designated for assignment. Miller then became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Boston to reunite with former University of North Carolina teammate Daniel Bard. Reportedly, Miller felt the Sox represented the best chance for him to develop into the pitcher he was expected to be when he was drafted.

Last Tuesday for Pawtucket, Miller struck out 10 and allowed one run and five hits over 5.1 innings last night against Charlotte (White Sox). In 13 appearances for Pawtucket this season, Miller is 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA. Over 65.2 innings, he has 61 strikeouts, 35 walks and has allowed 42 hits. Opposing hitters have a .181 average against him (.122 lefties, .209 righties).

Though he has dominated Triple-A hitters at Pawtucket this season, he was still hampered with the control issues that have plagued him since he was a highly touted draft pick. Until his last four starts, that is.

Miller has walked just three batters in his last four starts and 25.1 innings. Before that, he had walked 32 in 40.1 innings. Interestingly, most of Miller’s walks had been surrendered in the early innings. Once the 6-foot-7 left-hander has loosened up, he has consistently thrown strikes. To remedy the earlygoing control issues, Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Saveur made a suggestion.

Buchholz, Saveur told Miller, would pitch a simulated inning in the bullpen before each start when he was with Pawtucket two years ago. The reasoning behind this strategy is that, once he stepped to the mound in the first inning, it would feel more like the second inning for Buchholz.

Miller followed Saveur’s advice and limited Indianapolis to no runs, one hit and two walks over seven innings on May 29. The next start, Miller allowed three runs and six hits with nine strikeouts and no walks in six innings against Durham. He has one walk in his last two starts over 12.1 innings.

That Miller has walked just three batters in his last 25.1 innings is monumental. After all, the power lefty who has a fast ball that ranges in the low 90s to the mid 90s, a slider and a change-up is difficult to hit. His ticket to major league success will solely be based on consistently throwing strikes with command.

Until Buchholz was placed on the DL, it was likely that Bowden would be sent back to Pawtucket when Miller was called up. In a small sample size, Bowden has pitched well for the Red Sox in his first season as a full-time reliever. The 24-year-old Bowden has no allowed a run in 4.1 innings and three appearances for Boston. At Pawtucket, he was 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA and five saves in 20 games. Bowden could be a valuable piece of future Red Sox bullpens as a middle reliever and a long man.

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Wakefield spins another strong start in 12-3 Red Sox rout of Brewers Mon, 20 Jun 2011 00:35:16 +0000 Jeff Louderback Adrian Gonzalez belted his 1,000th career hit with his third triple of the season, and Tim Wakefield delivered eight strong innings as the Red Sox pounded the Brewers, 12-3.

All three Red Sox starting pitchers recorded eight innings in the three-game series against Milwaukee. Boston took two out of three in the weekend series and improved to 43-28.

The game’s outcome was shaped in the first inning. Wakefield needed just 12 pitches to retire the Brewers in order. Then the Red Sox sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring six runs on six hits off right-hander Yovani Gallardo. A three-run home run by Kevin Youkilis (11) and a two-run double from Jacoby Ellsbury (who singled to lead off the inning) were the big hits.

The Red Sox chased Gallardo in the fourth when Dustin Pedroia opened the frame with his sixth home run of the season. Gonzalez followed with his career-high third triple of the year, prompting Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to summon former Yankee Sergio Mitre from the bullpen.

Wakefield allowed a two-run home run to Nyjer Morgan in the second, and he held the Brewers scoreless until Prince Fielder lined a dinger over the right field fence in the seventh.

Overall, Wakefield surrendered three runs and three hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking one. The 44-year-old knuckleballer is now 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA.

Pedroia (3-for-4, a home run, a double, two runs and two ribbies), Gonzalez (2-for-5, a triple, two runs and two RBI) and Ellsbury (2-for-5, two RBI and one run) were the offensive standouts. Marco Scutaro belted a two-run home run in the sixth off Mitre.

Dan Wheeler tossed a scoreless ninth inning in a mop-up role.

The Red Sox open a three-game series against San Diego at Fenway Park on Monday. Left-hander Andrew Miller will make his Red Sox debut. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 4.26 ERA) will get the ball for the Padres. Former Red Sox top prospect Anthony Rizzo, who was a key part of the Gonzalez trade, will make his first major league appearance at Fenway Park.

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Lester settles down but Wolf limits Red Sox in 4-2 Brewers win Sun, 19 Jun 2011 15:02:45 +0000 Jeff Louderback Jon Lester went deep into his start last night, but early in the game the Milwaukee Brewers went deep against him.

Lester served up back-to-back home runs to Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart to open the game. Then he allowed a solo home run to former Red Sox catcher George Kottaras in a two-run second. Lester settled down to hold Milwaukee to four runs over eight innings, but Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf surrendered only two second inning runs as Milwaukee evened the series with a 4-2 victory.

Like John Lackey on Friday night, Lester struggled early. Along with the two first inning dingers, he allowed a double to Ryan Braun before escaping further damage. In the third, after Kottaras homered, Lester retired the next two batters and then walked two in a row. Casey McGehee followed with an RBI single for a 4-2 Brewers lead

The Red Sox had tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the second when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Cameron had back-to-back RBI singles.

After the third inning, Lester limited Milwaukee to two hits the rest of the way. His pitching line was four runs (three earned), seven hits, eight strikeouts and three walks over eight innings. The unearned run was Weeks’ home run. Moments before Weeks went deep, Adrian Gonzalez dropped a foul pop.

The Red Sox had their chances against Wolf. They were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and straded seven baserunners. The left-hander allowed two runs and nine hits over seven innings. He improved to 5-4 with a 3.15 ERA. Kameron Loe and closer Mike Axford each tossed a scoreless frame and Axford earned his 19th save.

Boston is now 42-28 and has a one-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. The 40-32 Brewers have a one-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central.

Tim Wakefield (3-2, 4.39 ERA opposes right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-3, 3.76 ERA) this afternoon in the series finale.

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Reddick up, Crawford to the DL Sat, 18 Jun 2011 20:09:57 +0000 Jeff Louderback After leaving last night’s game with what was diagnosed as a Grade 1 hamstring strain, which is the mildest, Carl Crawford was placed on the 15-day disabled list today and Josh Reddick was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket.

It is a wise move to place Crawford on the DL since, even though it is a mild hamstring strain, injured hammies tend to linger if they aren’t rested.

The timing is ideal to recall Reddick. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .385 (5-for-13) in five games for Boston earlier this season. At Pawtucket, Reddick was batting .230 with 14 home runs, 36 RBI and an .841 OPS in 191 at-bats. Last nigth against Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia), Reddick had two home runs and four RBI.

Reddick and Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, are two of Boston’s top outfield prospects who will likely compete for the starting right field job in 2012. Reddick has plus range and a strong arm, and he can play all three outfield spots.

With Crawford and Jed Lowrie on the DL, Boston’s depth is receiving a test. Marco Scutaro is playing well at shortstop, and the versatile Drew Sutton continued to prove his value last night by belting two hits, including a double, after replacing Kevin Youkilis, who departed with a stomach illness. Sutton is batting .324 (11-for-34) with seven doubles. He plays all four infield spots and the corner outfield positions.

Though Crawford has still not shown his full capabilities with an uncharacteristically low .243 average, he is still a disruption to pitchers when he is on the basepaths, and he is one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball. Reddick, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald are all plus defensive players, and all three can hit for power, so short term the Red Sox defense and lineup should be fine without Crawford.

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Lackey rebounds, Red Sox bats erupt in 10-4 win over Brewers Sat, 18 Jun 2011 02:50:41 +0000 Jeff Louderback After losing Jed Lowrie to the 15-day disabled list today with a shoulder injury, the Red Sox saw Carl Crawford depart tonight’s game with a strained hamstring and Kevin Youkilis leave with a stomach illness. Their absences didn’t prevent the Sox from knocking around Milwaukee, 10-4, at Fenway Park.

It was the first of 15 consecutive interleague games for Boston, which improved to 42-27 and extended its American League East lead to 2.5 games over the second place Yankees.

The Red Sox won with help from their bats, which caused Brewers starter Shaun Marcum to labor through 44 pitches in a two-run first inning. It was Marcum’s lone frame, and the Brewers were forced to dip into their bullpen and use three relievers.

Boston also prevailed because of John Lackey, who showcased an Oscar-worthy baseball version of a Jekyll and Hyde imitation. The right-hander allowed two runs in the top of the first and two more in the third. After surrendering four runs and seven hits in the first three innings, Lackey settled down to keep the Sox in the game and preserve the bullpen.

Lackey permitted a run on four consecutive singles to open the third, and then Casey McGehee ripped a hard grounder that was snared by a diving Dustin Pedroia, who tossed the ball to Marco Scutaro on the way to a critical double play. The Brewers tied the score at 4-4 on the plate, but the twin killing prevented a big inning as Lackey struck out Corey Hart to end the threat.

Lackey retired 15 consecutive batters before Nyjer Morgan singled with one out in the eighth inning. Moments later, Ryan Braun flied out and Morgan was doubled off first to end the inning and cap off Lackey’s outing. He allowed four runs and eight hits over eight innings, striking out five and not walking a batter. He improved to 5-5 and now owns a 7.02 ERA.

Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz were the offensive standouts tonight. Gonzalez ripped his 15th home run of the season, added a double and a single, scored three runs and knocked in his 62nd run of the season. He is batting .352. Ortiz was 3-for-5 with a double, a run and an RBI and is hitting .320.

Drew Sutton, who was called up from Pawtucket today to replace Lowrie, entered when Youkilis left with a stomach illness. The versatile Sutton was 2-for-3 with a double and a run. He is hitting .324 (11-for-34) with seven doubles.

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A myriad of Red Sox notes heading into interleague play; including Papelbon, Lowrie and Andrew Miller Fri, 17 Jun 2011 22:06:48 +0000 Jeff Louderback By Jeff Louderback

If history repeats itself, the Red Sox are about to embark on their annual lambasting of National League teams. Since 2003, Boston is a major league best 97-50 in interleague play, and this season the schedule favors the Red Sox.

Over the next 15 games, Boston hosts Milwaukee and San Diego and then hits the road for three-game sets at Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston. The Sox already slapped around the Cubs, taking two out of three in a series last month at Fenway Park.

At 41-27, the Red Sox sit atop the American League East, two games ahead of the New York Yankees (which lost to the Cubs this afternoon) and 5.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The three-game series that opens tonight at Fenway Park against Milwaukee will be a test. So will the three-game set at Philadelphia. Many baseball pundits project a Red Sox-Phillies World Series, and the Brewers have an improved pitching staff to accompany an American League-style lineup.

The Red Sox roster will have a different look tonight. Jonathan Papelbon’s suspension was shaved from three games to two games, and it will begin tonight. The suspension is a result of the closer bumping home plate umpire Tony Randazzo in a June 4 game. Randazzo appeared to instigate the situation, which perhaps led to the suspension being reduced.

As expected, Jed Lowrie was placed on the 15-day disabled list and super utility player Drew Sutton was called up from Pawtucket. Sutton hit .290 (-9-for-31) with six doubles in a recent stint with the Sox. He plays all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Marco Scutaro will serve as the starting shortstop during Lowrie’s absence.

An MRI of Lowrie’s left shoulder did not find structural damage, which is good news for his long-term prognosis. Lowrie injured his shoulder during a collision with Carl Crawford on May 29 against Detroit.  Since then, Lowrie is batting .129 (5-for-39) and has just two hits in his lat 28 at-bats. The Boston Globe reported that the MRI indicated bruising, swelling and a loss of strength in Lowrie’s shoulder. If he is out for more than 15 days, the Sox could call up top prospect Yamaico Navarro, who has played in one game since being activated from the disabled list with a strained oblique.

Clay Buchholz, who reportedly has a pulled back muscle and left last night’s start after five solid innings due to lower back tightness, has not yet joined Lowrie on the DL. In his pre-game press conference, Terry Francona indicated that the Sox will push back the right-hander’s next start to give him some additional rest.

Tonight, John Lackey (4-5, 7.41 ERA) opposes former Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.68 ERA). Jon Lester (9-2, 3.73 ERA) and left-hander Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.20 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday while Tim Wakefield (3-2, 4.39 ERA and righty Yovani Gallardo (8-3, 3.76 ERA) get the call on Sunday.

Francona confirmed that Andrew Miller will be called up to make the start against San Diego on Monday. Michael Bowden will likely be the odd man out and get optioned to Pawtucket.

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DL stints would benefit Lowrie, Buchholz Fri, 17 Jun 2011 16:39:30 +0000 Jeff Louderback By Jeff Louderback

Jed Lowrie is likely headed to the disabled list after his left shoulder popped out of its socket during a swing in the first inning against David Price last night.

Chances are, the versatile Drew Sutton will be called up to replace Lowrie. Sutton, who hit .290 (9-for-31) with six doubles for the Red Sox in a recent stint, was pulled from Pawtucket’s game in the sixth inning last night. Sutton can play all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots.

Lowrie’s shoulder has been sore since colliding with Carl Crawford on May 29 against Detroit. Since then, Lowrie is batting .129 (5-for-39) and has just two hits in his lat 28 at-bats.

Lowrie would benefit from a stint on the DL to let his shoulder heal. The Red Sox have quality infield depth. Along with Sutton, top prospect Yamaico Navarro is back with Pawtucket after spending time on the DL with a strained oblique. Navarro was 1-for-5 last night and is batting .322 with four home runs, 12 RBI and a 1.013 OPS in 90 at-bats. Navarro is a plus defensive player who has seen action at second, shortstop, third and in the outfield.

Also at Pawtucket is shortstop of the future Jose Iglesias, who many scouts agree would be the best defensive shortstop in the majors right now. The Red Sox prefer to keep Iglesias at Pawtucket this season so he can work on his hitting, but he is a good option, if needed.

Marco Scutaro is playing well after returning from the disabled list. With Scutaro and Sutton or Navarro, the shortstop position will be effectively manned while Lowrie’s shoulder heals.

Lowrie is not the only Red Sox player nursing aches and pains. Clay Buchholz left last night’s game against Tampa Bay after five innings because of lower back tightness. Buchholz allowed one run and two hits, improving to 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA.

Reportedly, Buchholz has a pulled muscle in his back. Like Lowrie, Buchholz would benefit from a DL stint. It would allow his back to heal, give his arm a rest and allow the Sox to keep Tim Wakefield in the rotation when Andrew Miller is called up.

With the presence of Miller, left-handed prospect Felix Doubront and Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves already on the major league roster, the Red Sox will not be hurt if Buchholz is placed on the 15-day DL. It is more important for Buchholz to be fully healthy in the second half of the season than having him pitch with a pulled back muscle now.

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Bullpen, A-Gonz supports Buchholz in 4-2 win over Rays Fri, 17 Jun 2011 16:06:52 +0000 Jeff Louderback By Jeff Louderback

Clay Buchholz left after five solid innings last night because of lower back tightness, but the bullpen held the lead and the Red Sox departed Tropicana Field with two wins in a three-game series against Tampa Bay.

As he often does, Jonathan Papelbon made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Stepping to the mound with a 4-2 Boston lead, Papelbon surrendered a leadoff double to Casey Kotchman and an infield single to B.J. Upton. Pinch-hitter Eliot Johnson attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Kevin Youkilis made a diving catch in foul territory. Papelbon then retired pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano on called strikes and Sean Rodriguez struck out swinging to end the game.

Buchholz earned the win and improved to 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA after allowing one run and two hits with five strikeouts and three walks over five innings.

Boston jumped on tough left-hander David Price, who needed 32 pitches to complete the first inning. After leadoff hitter Darnell McDonald was retired on a hard liner to deep left field, Dustin Pedroia worked a walk, Adrian Gonzalez doubled and then Kevin Youkilis was hit by a Price offering.

Home plate umpire Gary Darling issues warnings to both benches, prompting an argument from Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. Speculation has it that the Rays were displeased with Youkilis stepping on Kotchman’s foot during a play at first base in Tuesday night’s game. Price, of course, denied that the hit batsman was intentional, but it would be no surprise if the power lefty did hit Youkilis on purpose since first base was open anyway.

Hitting Youkilis proved costly for Price when he walked David Ortiz to force in the game’s first run. Price did escape further damage when he struck out Jed Lowrie and induced an inning-ending ground out from Carl Crawford.

Lowrie left the game after striking out. He said he felt his shoulder pop out of the socket when swinging – the same shoulder he injured during a collision earlier this season in the field with Crawford. Likely, Lowrie will be placed on the 15-day disabled list today and Drew Sutton or Yamaico Navarro will be called up.

The Red Sox made Price work hard again in the second inning when Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a one-out double off the right-center wall. McDonald followed with an RBI single and Pedroia added an RBI double.

The Rays trimmed Boston’s lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the second on Sam Fuld’s RBI double.

Alfredo Aceves relieved Buchholz and started the sixth inning, allowing a solo home run to Kotchman. That was the last run the Red Sox bullpen would allow as Aceves (1.2 innings, one run and two hits), Daniel Bard (1.1 hitless innings) and Papelbon (one inning, no runs, two hits) preserved the 4-2 victory.

Adrian Gonzalez delivered a crucial solo home run with two outs in the top of the ninth off Kyle Farnsworth. The line drive into the right field seats was a no-doubter and was Gonzalez’s 14th dinger of the season. He has an American League-leading 61 RBI and is hitting .347.

Boston finished the nine-game road trip with an 8-1 record and will open a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Padres tonight at Fenway Park.  The Red Sox will have interleague play in the next 15 games, including a nine-game road trip with three-game series at Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston.

The 41-27 Red Sox maintained their one-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East and increased their advantage over the third place Rays to 5.5 games.

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