Buchholz benefited from some great escapes
Atchison helping in mop-up role
Clay Buchholz was in trouble in the second inning last night, facing Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with runners on first and second and one out.
Kemp hit the ball hard on a line, but shortstop Marco Scutaro snared it and flipped to Dustin Pedroia at second base to double off Blake DeWitt and end the inning.
Another double play ended the third inning. Third baseman Adrian Beltre somehow grabbed a hot shot off the bat of Jamey Carroll in the fifth, and in the sixth, left fielder Daniel Nava made a sliding catch to take a hit away from Andre Ethier.
“It was a mix of everything tonight,’’ an appreciative Buchholz said after the Red Sox finished off a 2-0 victory. “I left a couple of pitches out over the plate, they hit it but I got some key outs.’’
Manager Terry Francona was a little more succinct.
“We were fortunate,’’ he said.
Beltre’s play was the best as he backhanded a rocket that was destined for left field, came up, and made a strong throw to first.
“There was no chance that play was going to be made,’’ Buchholz said. “I guess that’s why he’s here. He’s awesome. He makes hard plays look routine.
“That’s a big deal, especially down there in that corner. Balls get smoked down there. You have to sacrifice your body to make those plays.’’
But Atchison made an emergency start against the Phillies June 12 and helped the Sox get a victory. Then his three shutout innings in relief against the Dodgers Friday night helped produce a 10-6 win.
“It’s difficult sometimes when you pitch well in a loss because you can’t come in the clubhouse and be too happy with yourself,’’ Atchison said before last night’s game. “But these last few times have been a lot of fun.’’
A 34-year-old righthander who spent the past two seasons in Japan, Atchison has a 4.05 ERA on the season. He has been sharp in his last three outings, giving up two runs on three hits over 7 1/3 innings and striking out seven.
“I think the start kind of helped smooth some minor things out. I had a little rhythm going,’’ Atchison said. “I was able to keep going back out there. Those three innings gave me a chance to pitch.’’
Atchison started the year with minor league options and has been demoted three times.
“We’re trying to keep him here,’’ Francona said. “We’ve been forced into some situations where we’ve lost him a few times. But we’ve told him every time that we want to get him here and I think we’ve proven that because we call him right back up.’’
Atchison is essentially the long reliever now. But he also has the ability to pitch late in games.
“From my standpoint, I can do either one,’’ he said. “I don’t have a lot of major league time, so I’ve always felt that the more things I can do, the more valuable I could be to the team. You want to help a team as much as possible.’’
What looked initially like a serious injury that might require time on the disabled list proved not to be the case.
“From talking to the trainers, it’s actually pretty good,’’ Francona said. “I hope Tuesday’s realistic. If it’s not, we won’t do it. But I think it’s probably realistic to think that it might work that he’d be able to play. The good news is I don’t think anybody remotely thinks it’s a DL.
“It’s a big outfield in Denver. But if he’s healthy to play, he’ll play.’’
Francona came up with his 21st different outfield alignment last night, using Nava in left, Mike Cameron in center, and Darnell McDonald in right.
Francona admitted he didn’t know too much about McDonald and Nava before they arrived, given their limited exposure in spring training.
“I don’t think that going into the year anybody envisioned this,’’ the manager said. “This is a weird game, sometimes these things happen. I do think I said towards the end of spring training that somebody would come help us. We don’t always know who it is.’’
The Sox manager, who was born in 1959, recalled spending time at the park with his father.
“I think my dad’s last three or four years, I went to the ballpark with him just about every day,’’ Francona said. “You weren’t allowed in the clubhouse. I’d run in and grab some candy. I thought I was sneaking it and then I’d go run around.’’
Francona said Al Downing and Rick Monday were among his favorite players because they were willing to play catch with him.
“All it takes when you’re 8, 9, 10 years old is somebody to say hello to you,’’ Francona said. “That kind of does it. There was always somebody on every team, somebody willing to let a 10-year-old get in the way and play catch with.’’
A grouchy Gene Mauch, on the other hand, once kicked Francona out of the clubhouse.
In 1970, his father’s last season, Francona went on a 10-day trip in August with the Brewers to Minnesota, Chicago, and Kansas City. “Back then you didn’t do that,’’ Francona said.
But manager Dave Bristol, “a grizzled baseball guy,’’ Francona said, allowed it.
Francona recalled watching Bert Blyleven pitch and marveling at his curveball.
“It was probably the funnest 10 days of my life,’’ Francona said. “My mom bought me a suit to go on that trip, dressed me up, and put a tie on me. When I came home after that 10 days, man, I looked like an unmade bed.’’
Francona allows the players to have their sons in the clubhouse as often as they want. Victor Martinez Jr. and D’Angelo Ortiz are often underfoot, playing catch or dressing in their own uniforms.
“It’s good,’’ Francona said. “When you think about it, we’re away from our families so much and these guys are a lot. I think you can see how healthy it is when the kids are around. I think it’s good.’’