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No matter his performance, the Red Sox have had a penchant for winning with Andrew Miller on the mound. The team entered Sunday 6-1 in Miller’s first 7 starts, and a late rally stretched that to 7-1 as Boston squeaked past Chicago 5-3. It was a gutsy performance for Miller, who gave up a season high 10 hits but slipped his way out of several jams in only surrendering 3 runs over 5.2 innings.
The bullpen effort was dazzling, as they held off any and all White Sox rallies and opened the door for the Red Sox. Answering the call was Dustin Pedroia, who cracked a 2-run shot up the middle in the 7th to put Boston up 4-3 and ahead for good. Following dominant efforts from Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon slammed the door hard in the 9th, blowing 96-mph fastballs by the bats of all three hitters he faced. It was his 24th save of the season.
If you think Boston has been hot in Miller’s starts, look at the Chicago White Sox since May 2 with Mark Buehrle on the hill. Before Sunday’s rubber match defeat, Chicago had gone 12-2 during that three month stretch. Here are the stat lines for Buehrle’s two losses:
Case in point, after a rough stretch for Buehrle in April, the White Sox have been nearly invincible with him pitching. The Red Sox edged out a rare win on Sunday.
Much like Laser Show’s 2008 MVP season, it’s becoming expected that he will come through with clutch at-bats for this team. He nearly hit for the cycle in carrying Boston to victory on Tuesday, and Sunday he completely changed the game’s momentum. He quickly took advantage of Buehrle being out of the game, lacing a 2-2 pitch right past the shortstop to bring energy to the Red Sox. He looks to be in an all-out war with Adrian Gonzalez for team MVP now. Gonzo recorded his 90th RBI of the season with a double in the 9th.
Almost every season, the July 31 trade deadline brings about an awkward vulnerability around the clubhouse for players who are on the trading block. Miller faced a different vulnerability on Sunday, knowing that he needed a phenomenal start against the White Sox to even have a chance to stay in the rotation. An average start, coupled with Boston’s trade for former Baltimore ace and Seattle starter Erik Bedard did not bode well for Miller. The suddenly crowded pitching staff sees Miller as the odd man out. He’ll either take Randy Williams‘ place in the bullpen or go back to Triple-A and once again wait his turn.
One promising sign to keep an eye on from Sunday: Miller recorded 8 strikeouts in the no-decision, the most in any of his starts for the Red Sox. If this guy can tweak his mechanics and avoid the free passes, he could still be a magnificent part of this team barring any injuries.