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Aceves’s work is drawing raves

Ortiz believes he should start

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 20, 2011

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It’s been nearly three months since Alfredo Aceves made his fourth and most recent start of the season for the Red Sox, earning a no-decision against San Diego in a game the Sox lost, 5-4.

Much has happened since then. On June 21, the Sox led the American League East by one game. Now, they’re trailing in the East and running out of time, but still clinging to an ever-dwindling wild-card lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.

With eight games left, maybe it’s time to give Aceves another start, considering how well he’s been pitching and how desperate the Sox are for quality outings.

David Ortiz threw his support behind such a move.

“To be honest with you, the way things are going, he should be starting. It’s as simple as that,’’ Ortiz said following yesterday’s 6-5 loss to the Orioles in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. “Give it a shot. He’s got good stuff, man.

“I think at some point, he might be a starter. It all depends what the front office decides, but he’s got good stuff, and we definitely need a guy that can come in and give us six or seven good innings. He seems like he’s capable to do it. We’ll see.’’

Aceves pitched three scoreless innings in relief in the first game yesterday, striking out four. It marked the 12th time that he’s gone at least three innings in relief this season, which leads the majors.

It was also his fourth straight scoreless appearance, pushing his streak to seven innings without allowing a run.

Even when he found himself in trouble against the Orioles - he gave up a single to Vladimir Guerrero leading off the eighth inning, then a ground-rule double to Matt Wieters - Aceves buckled down and kept it a one-run game. With the infield pulled in, he retired Chris Davis on a short fly out to right, struck out Robert Andino looking, then punched out Nolan Reimold swinging.

Combined with Felix Doubront (1 1/3 perfect innings), Aceves made sure the bullpen at least gave the Sox a shot after starter Kyle Weiland put his team in a 6-2 hole one batter into the fifth inning.

“Aceves has been doing that time and time again,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “The one inning he got himself into a bind he pitched himself out of it. He’s done a tremendous job.

“I wish he was available in the second game. Knowing Aceves, he’ll want to be.’’

He threw 53 pitches in the first game, so going back to Aceves in the nightcap wasn’t high on Francona’s wish list.

Seeing Weiland pitch well certainly was, but the 25-year-old rookie has made three starts since Sept. 10, and didn’t go five innings in any of them. He’s yet to win in five career starts. Handing the ball to such an inexperienced arm in such an important point in the season probably wasn’t what the Sox had in mind, but Weiland felt he could stem the slide.

“It says a lot that they keep giving me the ball, that’s something I have to capitalize on,’’ Weiland said. “I believe in myself, and obviously they trust me to go out there and give them a chance to win. It’s really frustrating that I haven’t kept us within range and gotten deeper into games.’’

Weiland might not get another start, at least not this season. Perhaps the nod should go to Aceves. With a 2.74 earned run average in 105 innings - and a 9-2 record - he’s got the numbers to warrant such a move. With more wins needed to secure a playoff berth as the September air starts to cool, the team’s hottest pitcher is getting harder and harder to overlook.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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