Cody Ross had one more left in him, and he saved it for the very last possible moment.
With the Red Sox searching for a run in the ninth inning, Ross smashed a three-run home run over the Monster to give the Red Sox a 3-1 walk-off win.
It was his third career walk-off home run, but more than that it was his third three-run home run in two nights, fueling back-to-back wins, in a game where the starting pitchers were locked into a staredown.
Clay Buchholz and Jose Quintana battled for eight innings, Buchholz tossing one-run ball while Quintana worked on a shutout most of the night. Quintana refused to flinch, going eight strong innings, silencing a Red Sox offense that had come up with 14 hits Wednesday night.
Neither did Buchholz, who for the second straight start since he was put on the disabled list June 24 with esophagitis, pitched well enough to win. He gave up six hits, struck out six (four on called strikes) and by and large stayed out of jams, never facing more than the five he saw in the fourth inning, when Adam Dunn scored on Alex Rios’s sacrifice fly.
But the game ultimately rested with Matt Thornton, who had been trying to prove since spring that he was worthy of the job as the White Sox’s closer.
Although they had been hot all series, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford went a combined 1 for 8. Ellsbury was 0 for 2 with a runner in scoring position, striking out in the third and grounding out to short in the eighth. Carl Crawford led off the fourth, seventh, and ninth innings, grounding out twice.
But his leadoff single in the ninth was the start of the rally.
Top of the ninth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0:
Bottom of the eighth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: He’s been hot all series (5 of 13 with four runs, a double and a stolen base), but Jacoby Ellsbury has been up with a runner in scoring position twice tonight and he’s come up empty. He struck out on three pitches in the third with Pedro Ciriaco on third and he grounded out to short this inning with Mike Aviles at second.
Bottom of the seventh, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: Couldn’t ask for a better scoring opportunity than bases-load one out scenario. After retiring eight straight to start the game before Pedro Circiaco’s triple in the third, Quintana sat down 11 more in a row before Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez finally got to him with a consecutive one-out singles.
They set Cody Ross up for a shot at another three-run home run. Instead, he roped another single to load the bases. (Jerry Royster held Pedroia at third almost exactly as Viciedo bobbled the ball).
In trouble for the first time all night — a one-out, bases-loaded situation — Quintana got a visit from White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
After falling behind 1-and-2, Will Middlebrooks worked the count full, but grounded out to short (Alex Ramirez made a great play to stab at it and start the turn) starting a double-play that killed the inning and the possibility finally cracking Quintana.
When Royster held Pedroia, it was almost certainly the right call. It was a hard line drive and the throw would have been from shallow left. They just couldn’t cash in on a huge opportunity.
Top of the seventh, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0:Hard to ask for much more out of Buchholz, who’s thrown seven innings of one-run ball. It’s the sixth time this year he’s gone this deep in a game.
He only needed five pitches to retired the White Sox in order, but he’s up to 95 now (66 strikes). What’s scary is that Quintana’s only thrown 69.
Bottom of the sixth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: That’s now six innings of one-hit ball for Quintana, who’s faced one above the minimum. He got ground balls out of Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Top of the sixth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: Buchholz has been sharp. He’s only given up five hits (two to Paul Konerko, who singled again this innings) and hasn’t faced more than the five batters he saw in the fourth, when the White Sox scored their only run.
Bottom of the fifth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: For a second it looked like Cody Ross would round them up for the third time in two night, but his deep fly ball to left-center died at the warning track. The Sox have six fly ball outs on the night.
They haven’t really been able to figure out Quintana, who’s been a pleasant surprise for the White Sox so far.
He’s a 23-year-old rookie, with a sick cutter and a lot of confidence, as Daryl Van Schouwen wrote from the Sun-Times.
He’s gone 8 innings in three of his last five starts, and so far, at 57 pitches through five shutout innings, he’s locked in tonight.
‘‘He’s calm, he’s serene,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘He doesn’t get anxious. Mistakes don’t bother him. We see it every day in the bullpen and when he pitches. The whole package is coming together. It’s wonderful, and he’s healthy and fresh. What else can you say? The sky is the limit.’’
Top of the fifth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: Eduardo Escobar shot a life-comes-at-you-fast liner back to the mound, but Buchholz was quick to glove it.
The only other noise in the inning was De Aza’s two-out, ground-rule double over the short fence in right.
Bottom of the fourth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: The wind’s not helping the Red Sox’s cause. Dustin Pedroia’s got a couple of fly balls to his name so far.
Adrian Gonzalez looked like he got a hold of one, pushing a 1-and-0 fastball to the Wall in left center, but it hung up long enough for De Aza to track it down.
Top of the fourth, White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: Buchholz worked himself into his first jam of the night, walking Adam Dunn (he wouldn’t bite on the low cutter) and giving up a single to Paul Konerko.
It cost him a run. Alex Rios flied to right to score Dunn. But after that he worked his way out of it.
After fouling off four straight pitches to start his at bat. AJ Pierzynski struck out, with no chance of connecting with Buchholz’s changeup on 1-and 2. Dayan Viciedo grounded out to the left side for the second time tonight and the inning was over.
Konerko’s been a tough out all series, with four hits. Rios is 2 for 12 with two RBIs.
Bottom of the third, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0: Pedro Ciriaco’s two-out single broke up a stretch of eight straight hitless Red Sox, but even with Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, Boston couldn’t capitalize.
Top of the third, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0: All four of Clay Buchholz’s strikeouts so far tonight have come on called strikes. Adam Dunn stared at a changeup away. Paul Konerko stared at one inside. Escobar saw three fastballs and wanted no part of any of them. And after working Buchholz for eight pitches — easily Buchholz’s most difficult at-bat of the night — Alejandro De Aza froze up on a fastball inside.
Bottom of the second, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0: It’s definitely a jacket weather at the ballpark. The wind’s blowing straight in. Last night was a derby, but tonight might end up being the kind of game where runs will have to be scratched out.
Quintana’s retired the first six Sox. A couple of balls have been well hit on a line (Jacoby Ellsbury’s liner to right was tricky with the wind), but he hasn’t had to pay for it yet.
Top of the second, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0 A quick second for Buchholz, he gave up a single to AJ Pierzynski, but got groundball outs from Dayan Viceido and Gordon Beckham to cut the inning short.
Bottom of the first, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0: And Jose Quintana on-ups Bulchholz, with a six-pitch first inning.
Dustin Pedroia was in a hurry to put the bat on the ball, shipping the second pitch he saw to center.
Top of the first, Red Sox 0, White Sox 0: Last time out, a couple of Clay Buchholz’s bright spots were first pitch strikes and finishing off hitters. It was more of the same in the first. He faced four batters in the first, and started three off with strikes.
He only needed 10 pitches to get out of the innings, striking out Adam Dunn (swinging) and Paul Konerko (looking.
Pregame: In his last start, Clay Buchholz took the loss after giving up 4 runs in 6.1 innings against the Rays, but when he looked at the eight strikeouts and the mere three hits allowed (plus the one walk and the hit batter), manager Bobby Valentine said he couldn’t have asked for much more.
After being placed on the disabled list June 24 (retroactive to June 20) with esophagitis, He was on a fairly short leash, a 90 pitch limit. He ended up throwing 87. Valentine said he’ll be free of any restrictions tonight.
“I hope he pitches just like he did last time with a pitch count,” Valentine said. “You can’t do anything better than he pitched last time. I’m not looking for a major improvement on that, but I’d like to see a lot of the same.”
He had won four straight starts before the outing in St. Petersburg, the second longest streak of his career. He’s also on a run of six straight starts of six or more innings, also the second longest such streak.
Buchholz has only faced the White Sox four times in his career (1-2, 6.53 ERA), he’s only won once, and never at Fenway.
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