Red Sox win fifth straight
Bard goes seven to capture win
CHICAGO - The Red Sox skipped Daniel Bard’s last start then used the righthander in relief for an inning Monday. It seemed like a precursor to moving him back to the bullpen for good.
That proved not to be the case. Bard started against the Chicago White Sox Friday night and continued to make a compelling case to stay in the rotation, pitching seven strong innings in a 10-3 victory.
That’s five straight wins for the Red Sox, who have found life away from Fenway Park quite accommodating. They have outscored the Twins and White Sox, 44-19, on a road trip that has two games remaining.
Bard scattered six hits and allowed three runs, two earned, to drop his earned run average to 3.72 and raise his record to 2-2. He walked one and struck out six.
“I honestly do feel like I’ve gotten better with each outing, going all the way back to the spring,’’ Bard said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable throwing offspeed [pitches] in fastball counts. I’m more consistently throwing strike one with my fastball, which tonight was huge for me.
“Just a combination of things. I’m learning the little nuances of starting and tonight was a step in the right direction.’’
Veteran Aaron Cook is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts for Triple A Pawtucket and can declare free agency Tuesday if he is not in the majors. As manager Bobby Valentine said, that has put Bard under a microscope. But it doesn’t show on the mound.
“I’ve been very impressed with his focus. Those things could have gotten him mentally out of touch with his start,’’ Valentine said. “There was a lot to like from what I saw tonight.’’
Bard was efficient, throwing 63 of his 96 pitches for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 29 batters he faced and changed speeds with his slider, throwing it as hard as 85 miles per hour and then dropping it down to 78 to induce contact.
“It’s hard to put it all into words. We’ve seen an evolution,’’ Valentine said of Bard’s maturation as a starter. “The first time we looked at him, we were worried if he could have a wind-up.’’
Bard made only two mistakes. He shook off catcher Kelly Shoppach in the first inning and threw a changeup to A.J. Pierzynski that went for an RBI double. He also left a 3-and-0 fastball over the plate to Paul Konerko in the fifth inning that was deposited in the left-field stands.
The other run scored thanks to an error, a bloop single, and a passed ball.
Once the Red Sox took the lead, Bard retired seven in a row. He and Matt Albers retired the final 13 Chicago batters in order.
The Red Sox (9-10) have won five straight on the road for the first time since a six-game streak last June. They have Jon Lester and Josh Beckett going in the final two games of the series.
As Bard handled the White Sox, the Red Sox continued to pile up runs. They have scored six or more runs in the last six games and now lead the majors with 114.
Outside of Kevin Youkilis, who walked twice, every starter had at least one hit. Left fielder Darnell McDonald was 2 for 4 with a three-run double, a solo home run, and a career-high four RBIs.
David Ortiz, now hitting .425, was 2 for 4 with another home run.
“This is a dangerous team right now,’’ McDonald said. “We hit rock bottom when we were home, like Bobby said, and we started over. Everybody is doing something and David is leading us.’’
For the second straight night, it was 39 degrees at first pitch and got colder as the night went on thanks to a persistent wind blowing in from left field.
Several players wore extra layers under their uniforms with right fielder Cody Ross opting for a full hood and facemask to ward off the cold and Dustin Pedroia looking like a turtle in his hoodie.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Chicago starter John Danks (2-3) when Youkilis walked and Ortiz drove a changeup into the Red Sox’ bullpen in right field.
The home run gave Ortiz 382 on his career, tying Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 59th place all-time.
Danks had retired eight straight and was holding a 3-2 lead going into the sixth inning. Adrian Gonzalez and Youkilis walked with one out. Singles by Ortiz and Ross scored a run. McDonald, starting against the lefthander despite being 3 for 30 on the season, lined a three-run double to left field.
“I just needed anything,’’ he said. “That felt great.’’
Marlon Byrd, 7 for 22 since being obtained from the Cubs, continued his positive impact with an RBI single to center and the Red Sox had a 7-3 lead. That knocked Danks out of the game.
The lead grew to 9-3 in the seventh inning against rookie Nate Jones as Ross and Kelly Shoppach had RBI singles.
“That’s fun to see those guys hit the way they are,’’ Bard said. “As a starter, you love seeing all those runs.’’