Sox' win streak intact thanks to Pedroia, Middlebrooks home runs
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said during a radio interview earlier this month that general manager Ben Cherington had been “empowered” to be bold at Tuesday’s non-waiver trading deadline.
But who knew that perhaps the biggest move of all may be to stand pat?
“That would be the boldest move of all,’’ Lucchino chuckled after the Red Sox opened a 10-game homestand Monday night with a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers before an announced Fenway Park crowd of 37,784.
The team’s brass may have been convinced to keep intact its Fortune .500 ballclub, letting the chips fall where they may in the race for one of two American League wild-card berths, after the Sox climbed above the .500 mark (52-51) for the first time since July 21 and pulled within 8½ games of the Yankees in the AL East.
“Our ownership and organization did a great job of putting this team together this offseason and years past,’’ said starter Clay Buchholz (9-3) , who overcame a shaky first inning to record his first victory since June 19.
Buchholz went eight innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits, including a homer by Austin Jackson on the second pitch of the game.
“They wouldn’t have done it if they [thought] we weren’t good enough to win,’’ Buchholz said. “So that’s where everybody’s mind-set is at. It’s just going out there and having fun and not worrying about anything. Everything will take care of itself if everybody does their part in the game, does everything right and moving runners over, and if you’ve got to pitch around somebody to get to the next guy, you do that.
“That’s sort of what we’ve been telling each other, to stay positive about it.’’
Buchholz was the beneficiary of 10 Sox hits, including two-run homers by Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks. Both were on 1-and-2 pitches.
“Will has been such a good and consistent player and Dustin is the most determined and talented player I’ve ever seen,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “He was upset he left a man on second base with two outs [in the third inning]. When he came up in that situation, he was going to make something good happen.’’
Pedroia broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth when he took a fastball from Detroit starter Max Scherzer (10-6) and belted it into the Green Monster seats. It scored Carl Crawford, who had drawn a leadoff walk.
“He’s a firecracker,’’ Middlebrooks said of Pedroia. “It’s fun to have a guy like that. It pushed everybody.’’
Middlebrooks, after striking out in his first three at-bats against Scherzer, took out his frustration on Phil Coke in the eighth when he rifled a fastball into the Monster seats after seeing three consecutive changeups.
“Amazing, after the first three [at-bats],’’ said Middlebrooks, who homered for the 13th time this season, marking the most homers by a Red Sox in his first major league season since 1987 when Ellis Burks hit 20 and Sam Horn 14 in their debut seasons.
“Those first three at-bats were tough,’’ Middlebrooks said. “And just to hit something hard, felt really good.’’
Although he gave up the leadoff homer to Jackson, Buchholz held the Tigers to one run on two hits in the first, and the Sox picked him up in the bottom of the frame, scoring a pair to take a 2-1 lead.
After Jacoby Ellsbury walked, Crawford (1 for 3, 2 runs, 1 RBI) drove him in with a triple to left. Pedroia gave the Sox a 2-1 lead when he grounded to short, scoring Crawford.
Buchholz had a 1-2-3 inning in the second, needing only six pitches as Brennan Boesch flied to left and Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila each grounded to second.
The Tigers tied it in the third when Omar Infante tripled to right and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s ground single up the middle. Detroit threatened to tack on more when Buchholz issued a walk to Prince Fielder that loaded the bases for Delmon Young.
After a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure, Buchholz got Young to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
“I didn’t really have the two-seam fastball that I had the last couple of times out and I had to rely more on cutters and four-seamers today,’’ Buchholz said. “That was a big part of the game. That could’ve ended a lot differently if I didn’t get that ground ball.’’
Pedroia’s homer off Scherzer gave the Sox the buffer they needed when the Tigers scored another run in the seventh on Alex Avila’s double to right-center that scored Boesch, who reached on a throwing error by catcher Kelly Shoppach.
Scherzer, who fanned nine in 6⅓ innings, was chased in the seventh when he gave up a leadoff triple to Shoppach. It was the second triple of Shoppach’s career; both have come this season.
After Pedro Ciriaco flied to left, Ellsbury drove in Shoppach with a sharp single to right that caused Tigers manager Jim Leyland to quickly emerge with the hook after the Sox made it 5-3.
Middlebrooks’s blast put the game out of reach as the Sox won for the third straight time.
Suddenly, with the trade deadline looming, the Sox are starting to put something together.
“It’s just all got to happen at the same time,’’ Buchholz said. “We’ve got to hit and we’ve got to pitch well to win games and go on a big streak that we need to go on.
“It’s just passing off the torch to the next guy and that’s basically how we’re treating it as a starting rotation. The next guy that goes out there tries to do better than the guy did the night before. That’s where we’re at.’’
Next up: Josh Beckett vs. Justin Verlander.
“I feel like everybody on the staff is capable of going out there and pitching well every time out,’’ Buchholz said. “We’ve just got to build some confidence with it and build a little streak and who knows where it will take us?’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.