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One day after Jon Lester limited the Rays to one run over 7 innings, Buchholz decided to do him one better by not allowing a single hit until Rays left fielder Kelly Johnson dumped a broken-bat single into right field to lead off the eighth inning. (According to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, Johnson had been 0-for-9 in his career against Buchholz coming into the at-bat, including two strikeouts looking earlier in the game.) After inducing a double play, Buchholz would give up one other hit in the frame, a double to Desmond Jennings, before retiring Ben Zobrist to end his afternoon.
If he had managed the feat, it would have been the second no-hitter of Buchholz’s career. The first came in his second career start in 2007, when he dominated the Baltimore Orioles in a 10-0 Red Sox win. Instead of another no-no, Buchholz only finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts to go along with four walks and those two eighth inning hits. Buchholz is now 3-0 in three starts this season, allowing less than one baserunner per inning (0.95 WHIP) to go with a microscopic 0.41 ERA (2nd-best in the AL).
The Red Sox would give Buchholz all the run support he would need in the third inning off Rays starter Alex Cobb. The top of the order started the inning with three straight singles, including one of the bunt variety by Shane Victorino sandwiched between base hits by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. First baseman Mike Napoli then unloaded on a 1-0 pitch — a belt-high two-seam fastball right down the middle — to drive in two runs with a double into the Triangle, just shy of the 420 foot marker. Pedroia could have scored when Zobrist bobbled the ball on the relay, but had already been held up by third base coach Brian Butterfield.
After Cobb forced Pedroia at home on a comebacker by Will Middlebrooks ,the Rays should have escaped the third inning allowing just the two runs on a double play ball to the first baseman, former Red Sox James Loney. But Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar uncorked a wild throw to first after getting the out at second, allowing Napoli and Daniel Nava to score for a 4-0 Red Sox lead.
The Red Sox would tack on one more run in the bottom of the eighth inning when Pedroia raced home on a sacrifice fly from Middlebrooks.
Andrew Miller came on in the ninth inning for Buchholz. After coaxing pinch hitter Shelley Duncan to ground into a double play following Evan Longoria‘s ringing single off the Green Monster, Miller struck out Escobar looking to wrap up the Red Sox shutout.
The Red Sox (7-4) will wrap up the rain-shortened series against the Rays (4-7) on Monday with an early Patriot’s Day game. First pitch is at 11:05 a.m., with Ryan Dempster taking the hill opposite Jeremy Hellickson.