Ryan Dempster allowed two runs on four hits and struck out 10 against the Astros tonight. He has struck out 43 over 30 innings.
Dempster averaged 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings when he was with the Chicago Cubs last season. That figure rose to 9.1 when he was traded to the Texas Rangers in July, and is at 12.9 this season.
How is an older pitcher who spent the bulk of his career in the National League striking out more batters in the AL?
“I don’t know, I think maybe fastball command,” Dempster said. “When you can put your fastball where you want, you end up getting ahead in the count and expand off that. Strikeouts are overrated. I’m just trying to get outs.”
Dempster said his 12 starts for Texas last season taught him to focus on an entire lineup.
“There’s not that lull at the bottom of the lineup where maybe you can pitch around a No. 8 hitter to get to the No. 9 hitter, who’s a pitcher,” he said. “You have to continue to make pitch after pitch.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell has his own theory. He thinks the key is how Dempster has used his secondary pitches, mainly his slider and split-finger fastball.
“He’s able to go to any one of three pitches in a 3-2 count or in a two-strike situation,” Farrell said. “Hitters can’t sit on any one approach to finish a guy off. He’s done such a great job at that 3-2 count where he doesn’t give in. He uses the entire count when needed. We’ve seen some of his better sliders in 3-and-2 situations.”
• David Ross had a career-high four hits, two of them home runs. The 10 total bases were also a career high.
• Jonny Gomes on his diving catch in the fifth inning: “There’s two L’s in this game. There’s leather and lumber. Hopefully you can try and bring both every day. But you definitely have to leave the yard with at least bringing one. It was nice to make that catch.”
• More gold from Gomes. On his taking 46 plate appearances to drive in a run: “When the team’s winning, no one is in a slump. No one at all. I don’t consider myself in a slump. I just haven’t started yet.”
• Joel Hanrahan, who is on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, started a rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Pawtucket. Pitching in Buffalo, he allowed two runs on two hits in the eighth inning and had a strikeout.
Hanrahan got two outs before Jim Negrych doubled. Eugenio Velez then homered. He threw strikes on nine of 14 pitches.
Farrell said that Hanrahan would make another appearance for Pawtucket on Sunday.
• Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow will join Pawtucket on Saturday. He is scheduled to pitch in back-to-back games before being evaluated again. Breslow is out with a sore shoulder.
• Alfredo Aceves, who was optioned Wednesday, is expected to report to Pawtucket on Saturday. Farrell said he did not know when Aceves would be starting.
Pawtucket announced its rotation for a four-game series against Columbus that starts on Saturday and Aceves is not scheduled to pitch. The Red Sox, major league sources have said for several days, are open to the idea of trading Aceves.
Meanwhile, guess who will be pitching against Pawtucket on Sunday? It’s Daisuke Matsuzaka. The erstwhile Red Sox righthander signed a minor league deal with the Indians and is 0-2 with a 4.58 earned run average through four starts for Columbus. He has walked 18 in 17.2 innings.
• Sox pitchers have 232 strikeouts, their most ever for a month.
• Bedard and Ryan Dempster were the first Canadian pitchers to oppose each other at Fenway.
• Daniel Nava will throw out the first pitch on Opening Day of the RBI League at Jim Rice Field in Roxbury on Saturday.