Red Sox 12-8, FINAL: Jonathan Papelbon strikes out two in a scoreless ninth and the Red Sox extend their Wild Card to 1 1/2 games over the idle Rangers.
End 8th, Red Sox 12-8: It's not a save situation, but …I LOST MY LEG!
Mid 8th, Red Sox 12-8: More drama for Daniel Bard in the eighth, allowing the first two batters to reach, getting Jonathan Papelbon warming for a possible 4-to-6 out save. But Bard settles down, allowing just one run and striking out Beckham to leave a man stranded at third.
End 7th, Red Sox 12-7: The Red Sox are salting this one away, putting together four consecutive extra-base hits with two outs to score three insurance runs. J.D. Drew starts it with a homer to right, followed by an Alex Gonzalez double, a Jacoby Ellsbury triple and another double by Dustin Pedroia.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 9-7: The White Sox return the favor, leaving the bases loaded. After Okajima gets his man, Daniel Bard enters and makes it interesting, hitting Konerko on the shoulder to load the bases. But Bard, who has been shaky – to say the least – in August, recovers by getting Carlos Quentin on a fly to right, leaving them loaded.
9:50 p.m.: Ramon Ramirez was solid in the fourth and fifth, but a pair of walks in the sixth has hastened his exit. Hideki Okajima is in with two on and one out.
End 6th, Red Sox 9-7: Hopefully it doesn't come back to bite them, but the Red Sox leave the bases loaded. David Ortiz, who reached on Contreras' error to start the bases-loaded madness in the third, strikes out this time to end the inning.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 9-7: Youkilis flashes the leather in the sixth, scooping a rare poor throw by Gonzalez for the second out, then tracking down Nix's foul pop for the final out in a solid full inning from Ramirez.
End 5th, Red Sox 9-7: For the first time tonight, the Red Sox go down 1-2-3. A laugher an inning ago could get rocky down the stretch.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 9-7: Buchholz leaves after 92 pitches, 61 for strikes. He allowed a leadoff single to Scott Podsednik, then made an errant pickoff throw, which led to Podsednik advancing to third with one out. Buchholz then struck out Jermaine Dye for the second out and appeared in control. But he walked Jim Thome, then gave up the pop-fly homer to Konerko. It was the most runs allowed by Buchholz since the Baltimore game Aug. 2, a game the Red Sox eventually won.
9:10 p.m.: Buchholz was one out away from escaping another jam and qualifying for the win. He never got there. Paul Konerko strikes for a three-run homer and it's 9-7. Ramon Ramirez is on in relief.
End 4th, Red Sox 9-4: The Red Sox offense took a bit of a vacation Sunday night against C.C. Sabathia, scoring just four runs. It's back to work tonight. The Red Sox have now scored at least eight runs in 4 of 5 games and 5 of 7. A Pedroia lineout to center and a Youkilis single scores Gonzalez and Ellsbury in the fourth.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 7-4: Buchholz has his most impressive inning so far, stranding a runner in scoring position with less than two outs and maintaining the three-run lead his offense just handed him.
Pierzynski doubles with one out and advances to third on a groundout by Ramirez. Then Buchholz picks up his first strikeout in a huge spot, getting Jayson Nix swinging to end the inning.
End 3rd, Red Sox 7-4: Jose Contreras has had some bad innings against the Red Sox in his career. The third inning tonight might have been his worst. Mike Lowell's three-run homer has ended Contreras' night and given the Red Sox a three-run lead. That's only a fraction of the story of this five-batter meltdown.
The inning was going along swimmingly for Contreras, who entered tonight's start with a career 8.82 ERA against the Red Sox. But with two outs and one on, Contreras came totally unglued. He walked Victor Martinez, then hit Kevin Youkilis with a pitch to load the bases. Contreras should have been out of the inning right there, as he got David Ortiz to hit a dribbler up the first-base line. But instead of letting Paul Konerko field it and tag Ortiz, Contreras tried to field it himself and dropped the ball, allowing Ortiz to reach and Alex Gonzalez to score the first run,
Clearly rattled, Contreras walked Jason Bay to force home another run, then threw a wild pitch with Lowell at the plate, making it 4-4. Lowell then ended the nightmare (for the White Sox) with a towering homer over the AAA sign in left field.
Mid 3rd, White Sox 4-1: The string of quality starts for Buchholz has ended tonight. Beckham's two-run homer in the third gives Buchholz has many earned runs in three innings tonight as in his previous three starts combined.
End 2nd, White Sox 2-1: The Red Sox get on the board in a rather unorthodox fashion. With runners at the corners at two outs, J.D. Drew attempted to steal second and got caught in a rundown. But before he was tagged out (score it 2-4-3-6), Jason Bay scored from third to cut the deficit in half.
Mid 2nd, White Sox 2-0: Buchholz's walk numbers had been steadily decreasing over the past three starts, from five to three to one. But two walks killed him in the second inning tonight, with both coming around to score.
Buchholz issued back-to-back walks to Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin wth one out, before A.J. Pierzynski singled home othe first run and Alexei Ramirez brought home the other with a sacrifice fly.
End 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox get a decent-sized break on an incorrect call, but fail to capitalize on it.
Dustin Pedroia doubled with one out, then attempted to steal third with Victor Martinez at the plate. Rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham applied the tag to Pedroia's chest before the hand reached the bag, but third-base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Pedroia safe. But Martinez couldn't get Pedroia home, grounding out to a drawn-in infield, then Kevin Youkilis took a borderline called strike three to end the inning.
Mid 1st, 0-0: The ground ball out continues to be Buchholz's friend. Two of three outs in a perfect first inning come on grounders in a nine-pitch inning.
6:40 p.m.: Clay Buchholz has been a much different pitcher his past three starts than his first four. After failing to go deeper than 5 2/3 innings in any of his first four starts — allowing 13 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings overall, Buchholz has allowed 4 earned runs in 19 innings over his past three starts, going 6, 7 and 6 full.
"He?s done a very good job," manager Terry Francona said before Monday's game. "The biggest thing is, as the game starts speeding up, you get into the important part of the game and guys are on and the game is going quicker, he?s showing more ability to handle that. When there?s contact, he?s not running away from his fastball. He?s getting some ground ball contact in big situations, which then sets up that good changeup."
5:15 p.m.: The Yankees have come and gone, and so have any realistic chances of taking back the AL East. Now, the Red Sox must focus on the wild card race, which remains — for the moment — a three-team race, with the Rangers and Rays. The White Sox, who trail the Red Sox by the same 7 1/2 games that the Red Sox trail the Yankees, have their chance to get back in it this week and next, facing the Red Sox eight times between now and Sept. 7.
The first four begin tonight at Fenway. Amazingly, the Red Sox have played 123 games and have yet to face the White Sox, who have mixed in young talents, such as rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham, with veterans Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and Mr. Perfect (although not lately), Mark Buehrle. Tonight, the Red Sox send Clay Buchholz to the mound to try and continue his strong run of starts. No ace to face tonight. It's former Yankee Jose Contreras, who has always struggled against the Red Sox.