Saltalamacchia, Red Sox catching fire
His two HRs lead to 4th straight win
CHICAGO - There were days in spring training when Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia would forfeit his time in the batting cage to spend extra time working with a particular pitcher.
“We had so many new guys that I needed to spread myself out and get to know everybody as well as I could,’’ he said before Thursday night’s game against the White Sox. “That’s my job, to take care of the pitchers. If something has to give, it’s going to be my offense.’’
That unselfishness helped lead to his slow start at the plate for Saltalamacchia, who had only two hits in his first 25 at-bats once the season started.
“It didn’t bother me,’’ he said. “You have to let that go and get ready to catch. I expected I would start to hit eventually. With our lineup, I have the luxury of knowing other guys can carry the offense. For me, that part of the game is going to come.’’
As so it has. Saltalamacchia homered twice and drove in three runs to help power the resurgent Red Sox to a 10-3 victory before a well-chilled crowd of 20,266 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kevin Youkilis added three hits, including a grand slam. The Red Sox (8-10) have started their road trip with four straight victories. It’s their first four-game win streak since last Aug. 6-9.
Credit the bats. The Sox have scored 43 runs in their last five games, scoring at least six runs each time. The Red Sox had 12 hits against three Chicago pitchers on Thursday, six for extra bases.
Ryan Sweeney, who is hitting .383, was 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI. On a night when it was 39 degrees at first pitch, the Sox stayed warm by running around the bases.
The White Sox have lost three straight.
Chicago starter Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in major league history on Saturday, needing 96 pitches to dispatch of the Seattle Mariners.
Perfection lasted only six pitches on Thursday when Humber walked leadoff hitter Mike Aviles. The no-hitter was gone when Dustin Pedroia reached on an infield single with one out. Then Adrian Gonzalez made sure there would be no shutout with an RBI double to left.
David Ortiz followed with a single to left and the Red Sox led 2-0.
The lead grew to 7-1 in the third inning. Sweeney, who has hit safely in 15 of 16 games this season, doubled ahead of Gonzalez and Ortiz drawing walks to load the bases. Youkilis then drove a fastball into the Red Sox bullpen in right field for the second grand slam of his career.
Youkilis was hitting .174 through his first 13 games. He is 6 for 12 in the last three. That his home run went to the opposite field was a sign that his swing is in rhythm.
“Just having better at-bats and doing little things here and there,’’ Youkilis said. “I look at it as long season and you’re going to go through stuff. Hopefully the bad at-bats are in the past.’’
Saltalamacchia followed with a home run down the right-field line. It was the first time this season the Red Sox have gone back to back.
Youkilis singled off Humber in the fifth inning and scored when Saltalamacchia hit his second homer. It was his third time with two home runs in a game, the first with the Red Sox.
After going 2 for 25 in the first nine games, Saltalamacchia has hit safely in five straight games with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs.
“Salty’s had good at-bats for the majority of this season. His at-bats have been solid. He was due,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s a good hitter he wasn’t hitting into any luck at all. Every ball he hit hard early seemed to find a glove.’’
Humber was finished after five innings and 115 pitches. He allowed nine runs, a career high, on eight hits and three walks. He struck out five.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront went six innings for the win, his first of the year. He allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
“I’m very confident throwing the ball; I have no problem throwing strikes and making those guys swing the bats,’’ Doubront said.
Doubront said it was the coldest weather he had ever pitched in, which affected his mechanics at times. The cure was to work a little faster and get back in the dugout.
Doubront was not very efficient, throwing a career-high 110 pitches. But he retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.
“His stuff is very good,’’ Valentine said. “He’s just missing on that outside part of the plate. His ball is just running off a little times where it’s getting his pitch count up. But the changeup and the fastball and the curveball are all plus pitches.’’
Doubront has a 4.09 ERA in four starts. The Sox are 3-1 in the games he has started.
Junichi Tazawa, the only reliever who did not pitch on Wednesday in Minnesota, worked the final three innings for his first career save.