ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox had an impressive 4-2 victory against the Rays tonight. They wore out David Price after five innings ("Pathetic," he said) and got a strong performance from Clay Buchholz and three relievers.
The Sox were 8-1 in New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay, outscoring three division rivals by a combined score of 67-32.
"We left in second place and came home in first place. That's a great trip," said Adrian Gonzalez, who was 2 for 3 with a double, a home run and two walks.
Gonzalez somehow pulled a 96-mph Kyle Farnsworth pitch that was low and inside into the right field stands in the ninth inning. That had players in both clubhouses talking.
The Sox have won 11 of their last 12 and are an unconscious 39-17 (.696) since their unfathomable 2-10 start.
But it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns tonight.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie left the game in the first inning after swinging through a slider thrown by Price. He said later that he felt his left shoulder pop out briefly. The Sox reacted swiftly, pulling Drew Sutton out of the game in Pawtucket.
Terry Francona said Lowrie would be examined tomorrow. It certainly sounds like he's headed for the disabled list. Lowrie first injured his shoulder on May 29. He is 5 for 39 (.128) at the plate since with only 2 hits in his last 28 at-bats.
Marco Scutaro is going to prove very, very helpful to this team. There's a decent chance that Lowrie is going to be out for a while.
Buchholz left the game after give innings with a sore back. This at least the third time he has bad back problems during a game in the last month. The Sox gave him two extra days before his last start and Buchholz rolled through seven innings in Toronto. Now this.
Buchholz said his back tightened up in the second inning as the Red Sox were wearing down Price.
“It felt like a pulled muscle that’s in there and every time I tried to get out an extend a little bit more with a pitch, that’s when I felt it,” Buchholz said. “Last inning, it felt like I was compensating in my delivery for it. That’s how you injure yourself in other places.”
Buchholz does not feel he needs to go on the disabled list. He pointed out that the team has two days off coming up and can modify the rotation.
Terry Francona’s comments indicated a more conservative approach could be taken.
“We need to sit down in the next couple of days and see how he’s feeling. We certainly don’t want to go through the rest of the year like this,” the manager said.
The Red Sox have a replacement for Buchholz ready in lefthander Andrew Miller, who is expected to be called up early next week. His arrival would allow the Red Sox to place Buchholz on the disabled list or at least give him extra rest.
Every time you think having too many starters is a problem, something happens. Too many pitchers is never a problem.
As to other matters:
• The Sox have won 11 straight games started by a an opposing lefthander, the longest streak in the American League since the Angels in 2009.
• Kevin Youkilis wasn't thrilled that David Price drilled him with a fastball with first base open in the first inning and a lefty on deck. But that's baseball. Certain pitchers (Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens come to mind) do that. That Youkilis accidentally spiked Casey Kotchman the other day probably made it a little sweeter for the Rays.
Umpire Gary Darling overreacted and warned both teams. Better to let the players administer their own justice.
The Red Sox next face the Rays on July 15. Some Tampa Bay player will come away with a big bruise on his hip, bet on that.
• Daniel Bard's last 8 games: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
• The last time the Sox won eight games on a nine-game road trip was a 9-0 swing through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle in 1977.
• The Sox are 22-14 on the road, the best record in the majors.
• The Red Sox were grousing about the fans after the game. Gonzalez said one knucklehead kept yelling to him that he hoped he got hit in the head. "I will pray for him," Gonzo said. "I'll pray he gets a life."
"Welcome to Boston," said Kevin Youkilis.
• The Yankees (+91), Red Sox (+70) and Phillies (+61) have the best run differentials in baseball. In related news, the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox have the three highest payrolls in the game and very smart general managers.
Then again the Angels (-11), White Sox (-11), Cubs (-66) and Mets (-7) are next on the money list.
I'm off for a few days (four to be exact) but will post on the blog from time to time and keep you in lineups.
A sincere thank for reading during the trip. Even with the Bruins playing, we had great feedback on the blog and on Twitter. It's a lot of fun to write for people who are committed to their team.