Wednesday’s game in Chicago wasn’t a must-win for the Red Sox, but it held a lot of weight. A victory meant a positive end to an overall solid road trip, whereas a loss would have had the Red Sox once again taking a long look at themselves.
The Red Sox started off their nine-game trip by winning five of their first six games, including three straight against the Twins in Minnesota. Things were really starting to click, and it looked like the Sox were well on their way to regaining their early-season form, which had them firmly entrenched among baseball’s best. Chicago wasn’t as kind, though. The Red Sox’ back-to-back losses in the Windy City created questions about the offense, and another identity crisis slowly crept in.
For as much success — and somewhat surprising success, at that — the Red Sox have had this season, they’re still a team that’s difficult to put a finger on. A sweep at the hands of the sub .500-White Sox would have made it even more difficult, especially since it would have come at the tail end of an otherwise awesome road trip.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they won’t return to Fenway Park looking to pick up the pieces following a road trip that went off the tracks. Clay Buchholz fought his way through seven solid innings, and the Red Sox slapped a bow on their road trip with 6-2 win. The return home now involves trying to build momentum, rather than trying to turn things around.
In that sense, Wednesday’s victory was a big one. Making it even bigger, however, was how the Red Sox managed to emerge victorious.
Buchholz, who gave up one run on five hits in seven innings, wasn’t his best. He matched his season-low strikeout total with four, and he had to labor through some at-bats. The right-hander tossed 113 pitches, and the White Sox got the leadoff man on in five of Buchholz’s seven innings. That ability to generate baserunners early on in innings meant Buchholz frequently had to pitch out of the stretch, which is something that inherently makes it more difficult to establish any sort of rhythm.
But even though Buchholz’s outing wasn’t rhythmic in the traditional sense, he still kept buckling down and keeping the White Sox off the scoreboard. Chicago’s offense certainly deserves some criticism for not coming up with timely hits, but the seven innings of one-run ball were also a testament to Buchholz’s poise. And after three failed attempts at win No. 7 for the righty, a hard-fought victory to improve to 7-0 is just as encouraging as a gem.
The positives of Wednesday’s win extend beyond the mound, though. The Red Sox’ offense had its bright spots, and the defense had a couple of highlights as well.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who has taken a tremendous amount of heat recently, reached base four times via two singles and two walks. It was the type of performance a team expects out of its leadoff hitter, and it should, at least temporarily, calm the debate about whether John Farrell should move Ellsbury down in the order.
Mike Napoli also reached base safely four times. David Ortiz had two hits, including a two-run single in the first inning. Daniel Nava bounced back from two shaky at-bats early on to smack a two-run single of his own in the ninth inning.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was initially putting together a poor night at the plate, made his presence felt by throwing out two would-be base-stealers. Before Wednesday’s game, Salty had only thrown out one attempted base-stealer all season (1-for-19, 5. 3 percent).
Wednesday’s victory wasn’t all that pretty, but the end result was exactly what the Red Sox needed. The same can be said for the road trip, which would have looked a lot less impressive if Buchholz and the Red Sox didn’t stop the bleeding in Chicago.