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While the Angels pray (get it?) for the young Rangers pitchers to falter so they can gain some ground in the AL West, the team made a serious upgrade to their starting rotation, trading Joe Saunders and three minor league pitchers to the Diamondbacks for Dan Haren. It was a really good move for a club that’s used to winning it out west.
Kevin Youkilis gave Haren a rude welcome back to the American League, sending a screaming line drive right up the middle in the fifth inning. Haren, trying to protect himself more than anything, was struck in his pitching forearm and hit the ground immediately in pain.
“It’s pretty sore, but I don’t think it hit bone or anything,” Haren said while standing in front of his new locker. “It was just the meat of my forearm. They said I was lucky, that it looks like I’ll be fine to go next time. It swelled up pretty good, but it’s nothing I’m worried about.”
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Haren was forced to leave the game after striking out 8 Red Sox over his 4.2 innings. He left with a 2-1 deficit after allowing an RBI single in the second to Victor Martinez (in his return to the lineup) and a solo shot to David Ortiz in the fourth. Ortiz continued his hit parade off the Angels bullpen in the eighth, launching his 21st HR of the season, a two-run shot that gave the Sox a semi-comfortable 4-1 lead.
Clay Buchholz had his best start since coming off the disabled list, going seven innings with just one run allowed on five hits and a walk. He struck out seven to earn his 11th win of the season, but not before the bullpen nearly coughed up his lead again.
Enter Scott Atchison in the eighth. Atchison was pitching to give the severely overused Daniel Bard a rest, and has proven to be reliable at times out of the pen. Spotted a 4-1 lead, Atchison allowed a two-run HR to Hideki Matsui, and all of a sudden the Sox were clinging to a 4-3 lead. Jonathan Papelbon had to come in to record the last out of the eighth inning.
J.D. Drew smacked a two-run double in the top of the ninth, giving the Sox another three-run cushion. Papelbon then closed out the Halos for the save and a tough, gritty 6-3 win for the Red Sox.
Not to be outdone by Buchholz’s masterful performance, David Ortiz flexed his muscle, powering his way to two home runs, including a critical shot in the eighth that helped preserve Clay’s victory.
It will really be a shame if the Red Sox lineup and rotation carries this team to the playoffs, because this bullpen is sure to blow it all up. Atchison has performed well at times, but Monday was not his best effort.
W: Clay Buchholz (11-5)
L: Dan Haren (0-1)
SV: Jonathan Papelbon (23)