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The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers faced off Sunday night at Fenway Park. The Red Sox had already taken two of three from the Dodgers and were looking for the sweep. On the hill for the Red Sox was Clay Buchholz, looking to move into first place (tie) in the American League with his tenth win of the season. The Dodgers countered with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who was coming off a five-shutout-innings performance against the Cincinnati Reds.
Both pitchers pitched well enough to get the win, with neither allowing much in the way of extra base hits (each starter allowed just a double). The Dodgers loaded the bases in the first, but Buchholz was able to get out of the jam. The Red Sox then scored in the bottom of the first thanks to a series of infield hits, with the run-scoring single dribbling down the third base line and hitting the third base bag. The Red Sox scored again in the third on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly, but that was all the scoring there would be. The rest of the night was a combination of strong hitting and wasted opportunities. In the end, the early scoring for the Red Sox held up, and Boston won, 2-0, completing the sweep. Buchholz picked up his tenth win, Kuroda the loss, and Jonathan Papelbon worked a perfect ninth inning for his 16th save.
The offensive star of the night without a doubt was Dustin Pedroia. He went 3-4 for the evening and was involved in both scoring plays Boston made. In the first inning, he reached base on an infield single, then stole second and went to third because no one was covering. He wound up scoring on Kevin Youkilis’s (1-4, RBI) dribbler up the third base line. In the third inning, his single moved Marco Scutaro (1-4, R) from first to third. Scutaro then scored on Ortiz’s sacrifice fly. He also hit a triple in the eighth inning, turned two double-plays, and made a fine sliding stop of another grounder in the top of the fourth inning. He was by far the most productive player at the plate or in the field. On a side note, new sensation Daniel Nava continued to hit, going 1-2. His average stands at a torrid .370.
Clay Buchholz started this game poorly and finished it strongly. Though he struggled with his command (at least at first), he did an excellent job of making the big pitch when it counted. With the bases loaded and only one out in the first, Buchholz picked up a key strikeout and then induced a groundout to kill the threat. It was Los Angeles’s first and best chance to score. Eventually, he found his groove, at one point retiring 10 Dodgers in a row. His stat line- 6.2 innings, 0 ER, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts- shows that this was probably not his single best performance of the year. But it was definitely good enough. Buchholz is proving he can still be effective and win without his best command, and that he has the maturity to not let early-game struggles throw him off his pitching rhythm. The bullpen was again spectacular, as the Red Sox only needed to use Daniel Bard (who used just one pitch to quell a two-baserunner threat in the seventh) and Jonathan Papelbon, their two most reliable bullpen pitchers.
With this win, the Red Sox moved into second place in the AL East, tied with Tampa Bay and just a game behind New York. Everything is clicking for the Sox right now, who went 8-1 on the homestand. The pitchers are getting it done. The defense is doing its job. And the offense is exploding… except when it doesn’t, like Sunday night. But even in cases like on Sunday, when the offense isn’t as good as it has been (just seven total hits, two walks drawn), the Red Sox are showing they can still win. They can win with infield hits and stolen bases, or then can win with home runs. They can win with great pitching and they can win with just above-average pitching. The important thing is, they’re winning. And they’re right back in the thick of the race.