It wasn't necessarily pretty, but the Red Sox found a way to cruise to their fourth consecutive victory over the Cleveland Indians, closing out their 2009 regular season on a high note. Despite Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz was shaky on the mound, giving up a leadoff home run to start the ballgame and later getting pummeled by a five-run Cleveland rally in the third inning, but the Red Sox stormed back and won anyway. Alex Gonzalez homered in the second inning, J.D. Drew went deep twice, Dustin Pedroia added a two-run shot in the fifth and Jed Lowrie piled it on with a grand slam, the first of his career in the big leagues.
Buchholz's final pitching line: three innings, six runs on five hits, six strikeouts and two walks. The Sox' young righty couldn't work out of jams and couldn't find the big out when he needed it, but the offense bailed him out with a big day at the plate.
By sweeping the four-game weekend series at Fenway Park, the Red Sox finished out their regular-season effort with 95 wins. They now await the Angels, champions of the American League West, in the first round of the playoffs beginning this coming week.
Final: Red Sox 12, Indians 7.
Not that it was necessary by any means, but Terry lets Jonathan Papelbon
pitch the top of the ninth inning in what's anything but a save
situation. Pap gets a quick 1-2-3 inning, putting the Indians out of
their misery and helping the Red Sox close their regular season with a
four-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians.
End 8th, 12-7 Sox: Jess Todd comes on in relief for the Indians,
and while the Sox put two runners on with two outs for David Ortiz, the
Indians escape the jam when Papi strikes out swinging, his second K of
the day. On to the ninth — the Red Sox will attempt to put the
finishing touches on their 95th and final win of the 2009 regular
Middle 8th, 12-7 Sox: Daniel Bard shows off his versatility in
the top of the eighth — he can get strikeouts, and he can get other
strikeouts. First he buckles Andy Marte with a 0-2 breaking ball; then
against Wyatt Toregas, he brings the triple-digit heat and freezes him.
Fernando Cabrera then comes in to get the final out of the eighth,
striking out Chris Gimenez looking.
End 7th, 12-7 Sox: Chris Perez stays in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, and he makes it a hitless inning against a handful of Sox reserves. Josh Reddick flies out, and after a six-pitch walk to Brian Anderson, Kotchman and Gonzalez go down in order. We're heading to the eighth inning.
Middle 7th, 12-7 Sox: Bowden retires nine of the first 10
Indians he faces, but that streak is snapped by Trevor Crowe, who
one-hops one to the wall in right-center field in front of the Red Sox'
bullpen for a double with two outs. That brings up Michael Brantley,
the pinch-hitter for LaPorta — he hits a hard grounder up the middle,
and Alex Gonzalez makes a nice lunging attempt to flag it down, but it
gets away and Crowe scores the seventh Cleveland run. Tito brings in Daniel Bard from the bullpen to put out the fire.
End 6th, 12-6 Sox: Rafael Perez takes the mound for Cleveland
after five shaky innings from Ohka, and Perez fares little better. Drew
homers for the second consecutive at-bat in inning number six,
following up his 23rd home run of the season in the fourth inning with
his 24th here, again going deep to right. The Sox threaten again with
two singles and a walk with two outs, at which point Eric Wedge gives up on Rafael Perez and replaces him with (no relation) Chris Perez. The result? A grand slam, the second for the Red Sox in as many games, this one from Jed Lowrie. The Sox have broken this thing wide open — it appears that you're looking at a 95-win Red Sox team for the third year in a row.
Middle 6th, 7-6 Sox: Wyatt Toregas manages a two-out double to
right field against Bowden, but the Boston rookie gets out of trouble
with ease, striking out Chris Gimenez to strand Toregas at second base.
That's the second strikeout in two innings for Bowden, who's retired
six of the seven Indians he's faced thus far.
End 5th, 7-6 Sox: The Red Sox reclaim the lead with authority in the fifth inning, as Dustin Pedroia lofts one up and over the Green Monster with nobody out, scoring pinch-runner Joey Gathright. The Sox are back in front, and they'll leave Bowden in the game with a chance to hold the lead.
Middle 5th, 6-5 Tribe: Michael Bowden takes the mound in relief
of Ramirez, and everything goes smoothly for the Sox' rookie in the top
of the fifth. Three up, three down, eight total pitches — Trevor Crowe, Matt LaPorta and Jhonny Peralta go down in order.
End 4th, 6-5 Tribe: Ohka starts the bottom of the fourth with a swinging strikeout of Jason Bay to make it six straight Red Sox retired, but J.D. Drew
ends that streak in a hurry. With one out on the bases empty, Drew gets
a pitch to drive on 2-2, wrapping it around the foul pole in right for
a home run, his 23rd of the season. With one swing of the bat, Drew
cuts the Indians' lead in half.
Middle 4th, 6-4 Tribe: Ramirez gives the Red Sox a solid inning
in relief, retiring the Indians 9-1-2 hitters in quick succession.
Romero and Valbuena each make contact, but Jason Bay stays busy in left
field, making back-to-back catches for outs two and three. It's a
scoreless inning for Cleveland, and we move on to the bottom of the
End 3rd, 6-4 Tribe: For the first time today, Ohka takes care of
the Red Sox without a hitch — facing the heart of the Red Sox order,
the righty manages to get a flyout, strikeout and groundout out of
Martinez, Youkilis and Ortiz. It's a 1-2-3 inning. On the other side,
it appears that Clay Buchholz is done after three — Tito will turn to Ramon Ramirez to pitch from the fourth inning on.
Middle 3rd, 6-4 Tribe: Buchholz implodes on the mound in inning
number three. It starts with the Sox' righty giving up a walk and two
singles to load the bases with one out. That brings up Matt LaPorta, whom Buchholz inexcusably walks on four pitches to force in a run, and then comes Jhonny Peralta, who sends one up the middle for a two-run single, tying the ballgame. Two batters later, Andy Marte
clanks one off the scoreboard in left for a double, scoring two more
runs. It's an ugly five-run rally allowed by Buchholz, and the Sox'
lead has vanished.
End 2nd, 4-1 Sox: So much for Alex Gonzalez being
injured, huh? Gonzo blasts off against Ohka in the second, getting a
first-pitch fastball and launching it deep to left, into the Monster
seats. The Red Sox widen their lead to a comfortable 4-1, plenty of
room to breathe for Clay Buchholz.
Middle 2nd, 3-1 Sox: After the initial blip against Valbuena,
Buchholz has recovered nicely. He's since recorded six straight outs,
including three by way of the K — a swinging strikeout of Wyatt
Toregas closes the top of the second, with Buchholz going strong at 31
pitches, 22 strikes. Looking good.
End 1st, 3-1 Sox: The Red Sox already held a ceremony prior to
today's game to celebrate their players' individual achievements this
season — and now, here's another one. Jacoby Ellsbury is now
the first player in Red Sox history to steal 70 bases in a single
season. Ellsbury singles to left and steals second to lead off the
first, and wouldn't you know it — that sparks a Boston rally against
Ohka. With a walk and two more singles, including a two-RBI base knock
from David Ortiz, the Red Sox take the lead in inning number one. A Jason Bay sac fly then makes it 3-1.
Middle 1st, 1-0 Tribe: Buchholz's outing starts out looking a
whole lot like his last one — just like Tuesday night, he starts off
allowing a solo home run to lead off the ballgame. This time, it's Luis Valbuena,
who hacks at a 1-1 pitch and sends it into the bullpen in right-center,
good for the 10th home run of the season for the 23-year-old middle
infielder. It's 1-0 Tribe early.
1:17 p.m.: In today's lineups, you'll see that Terry Francona is opting to give his veterans some rest with the playoffs looming. Victor Martinez is behind the plate to catch Buchholz, as per usual; and while Mike Lowell usually gets the start when Jason Varitek sits, that's not the case this time out. Casey Kotchman and Kevin Youkilis will be the Sox' corner infielders for the team's regular-season finale.
For the Indians, a trio of rookie September call-ups will get a chance to start in the season's final game. The Tribe's 7-8-9 hitters are all fresh faces: Wyatt Toregas behind the plate, Chris Gimenez in left field and Niuman Romero at short.
8:59 a.m.: After 161 long, grueling games, the Red Sox have just one more to go. Then come the ones that really count.
With the postseason looming large in their minds, the Red Sox take the field on Sunday afternoon for their final game of the regular season. With three straight wins over the visiting Indians already under their belts, the Sox will set their sights on a four-game sweep to finish their regular season. Then, it's off to Anaheim.
This will serve as the final tune-up for Clay Buchholz, who takes the mound looking to rebound from an ugly loss to Toronto on Tuesday night. Opposing him will be Tomo Ohka, an old friend of the Red Sox making his homecoming to Fenway Park.
The Sox and the Tribe might not be playing for much. For both teams, their fates are already decided. But for the Red Sox, it would be nice to get one last win and head into the postseason with momentum on their side. They'll look to Buchholz to take care of business.
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