If it was a number -- good or bad -- Ryan Demspter wanted no part of it.
“Keep that one to yourself,” he said. “Tell me at the end of the year.”
It happened to be good. This season, he’s been absurdly effective with runners in scoring position. Coming into the Red Sox’s 6-1 loss to the Twins, opponents were hitting .113 off of him with men on and .143 with runners in scoring position. It’s something he’s been relatively strong at his entire career (.260 RISP, .263 with men on).
The Twins were 4 of 10 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night, but just 1 for 4 against Dempster. In the third, he got a Justin Morneau double-play ball and an inning-ending Trevor Ploufe ground ball with Joe Mauer in scoring position.
In the fifth, after giving up an leadoff double to Ryan Doumit, he got Chris Parmelee to pop up in foul territory (a play that left third baseman will Middlebrooks and catcher David Ross licking their wounds) before giving up and RBI single to Wilkin Ramirez.
The success Dempster’s had in tight spots, Ross said, has more to do the way he pitches when the bases are empty.
“He likes to be more aggressive with nobody on,” Ross said. “Make the hitter commit. Establish a fastball. He does a good job of that. He makes them hit. He's given up some homers, but they've been solo homers.
“So that's his MO. He's going to attack you and that stuff pays off when you're in the stretch and those guys you've made them commit to the heater. It pays off.”
As well as Clay Buchholz has pitched this year, his numbers with runners on (.211 RISP, .143 men on) trail Dempster’s. Jon Lester’s as well (.182, .203). At 2-2 through his first six starts, it hasn’t always translated to wins for Dempster, but it adds another layer to his effectiveness so far this season.
They're all numbers, and Dempster will gladly ignore them for the next few months, but with seven-plus innings, he gave the Sox their longest start since Buchholz went seven against Toronto last week and would’ve gone longer had it not been for errors. His 55 strikeouts are second most on the team and third in the American League.
“I was happy with that,” Dempster said. “I just wish I could've pitched a little bit better and given us a chance to win the ballgame."