Buchholz, Sox good enough
Pedroia, Ortiz back righthander
The green shirts speckled the crowd, with periodic chants breaking out. Those were, of course, more of the “Beat LA!’’ variety than “Beat Arizona!’’ In many ways it seemed as if the crowd was ruing its decision to forsake the Celtics for seats on a beautiful night at Fenway Park. The ballpark wasn’t exactly full of energy, though it popped up in spurts — on a Bill Hall defensive play to end the seventh, and as Jonathan Papelbon got set to throw the final pitch of the game.
Fenway was less than half full by the eighth inning.
Given that the Sox were up by three runs, and that the NBA Finals beckoned, it wasn’t all that surprising.
Those left got to witness the end of a game made for mid-June, a nondescript win over an interleague opponent, as the Sox took a 6-3 victory over Arizona in front of 37,459.
Even manager Terry Francona seemed to have his interests elsewhere. As he rose from the podium, following his postgame news conference, the first words out of his mouth were, “What’s the score?’’ toward the team’s media relations director. The noted Celtics fan wasn’t likely to be happy with the answer, as the Lakers were on their way to a Game 6 blowout.
He was probably happier with what had happened under his own watch, as the Sox were buoyed by Dustin Pedroia, who was hit by a pitch, doubled, and singled, scored three runs, and drove in one; by David Ortiz, who belted a two-run homer; and by an adequate start from Clay Buchholz, as the Red Sox kept pace in the American League East and handed the Diamondbacks their 11th straight road loss.
“It’s a good way to play,’’ Francona said. “David takes a real good swing, gets us on the board. Then we added on. When your pitching’s holding them down, every time you score after that, it’s a good way to play.’’
While Buchholz (9-4) was busy upping his strikeout count — he had only seven total in his last three outings — he was also busy upping his ERA. The owner of a 1.45 ERA over his last six starts allowed one run in the first and two more in the fourth.
He also was upping his pitch count, lasting just 5 2/3 innings and throwing 113 pitches. He struck out eight, matching his second-highest total of the season, and walked one.
“It didn’t feel easy,’’ Buchholz said. “Some grinding innings, the first inning, the fourth inning, 20-some odd pitches in each of them. Runners on base. Runners in scoring position. That’s when you’ve got to sort of bear down and throw a couple pitches that you need to throw in some situations. I was lucky enough to throw a couple good pitches in a couple of those at-bats.’’
He was bolstered, too, by an offense that came out swinging. After Buchholz gave up one run in the first inning — Stephen Drew singled and scored on Adam LaRoche’s single — Ortiz took care of him in the bottom of the inning.
Ortiz blasted a pitch over the Sox bullpen with Pedroia aboard, his 13th home run of the season. The Sox were up by a run, and didn’t trail the rest of the way, adding three in the third on a Mike Cameron single, Daniel Nava walk, Pedroia double, a run-scoring wild pitch by Ian Kennedy, and Victor Martinez’s two-out infield single. Kevin Youkilis doubled to left to drive in Pedroia, who had reached on a single to right, with the final run in the fifth.
“David’s been squaring the ball up a lot the past month and a half to two months, and unfortunately hitting balls right at guys into the shift that they’ve put on him,’’ Buchholz said. “For him to come up with that ball, have some confidence going into his next couple at-bats, he’s the key to success for this team. Whenever that guy’s hitting, it’s just a different lineup to pitch to.’’
Buchholz added, “That’s big, going out there as a pitcher having a three-, four-run cushion, and not having to press to throw certain pitches, being able to throw pitches, try to just put it down in the zone instead of trying to dot the outside, inside corners. That leads to early contact in the count, some balls hit at people that were hit hard, but that were hit at some guys. It worked out.’’
Buchholz allowed two runs in the fourth, allowing hits to the first three batters. Miguel Montero doubled and moved to third on a single by Chris Young. They both scored on a double to left by Justin Upton.
But that was all for the Diamondbacks, who fell even though Buchholz had far from his best stuff.
“Obviously he didn’t bring his best stuff, but he was able to hang in there for us and give us a chance to win this ballgame,’’ Martinez said. “His fastball might be not working tonight, but he’s still got his curveball, changeup, and his slider. That shows you what kind of pitcher he is.
“One thing that is for sure is that he is getting comfortable every time he goes on the mound. Obviously it happens to everybody, when we first came up to the big leagues and now. You can just see his attitude, his face on the mound, it’s a dominant pitcher, and that’s always good.’’