Red Sox Deliver First Strike in Uphill Battle Back Into Thick of AL East Race

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Red Sox Deliver First Strike in Uphill Battle Back Into Thick of AL East Race NEW YORK — There is a scene in the movie Tombstone in which Wyatt Earp, finally through with the terrorizing Cowboys who have already murdered his younger brother, begins his systematic destruction of the gang by assaulting one of their higher-ups. When he is done, he turns to his surviving brother and holds up one finger, symbolizing the first of what he hopes will be many victories.

Gleaming Yankee Stadium is nothing like a cow town — probably the furthest thing from it. But with the Red Sox' 6-3 victory in the opener of a crucial four-game set here, the Hollywood theme applies.

In a stretch that may determine the team's fate come October, Boston has one under its belt.

"We came in with our backs against the wall," said Clay Buchholz, who secured his 12th victory with 7 1/3 solid frames. "At this time of the season, we have to win."

And so the Sox begin the process of fighting back. To be successful in doing so for the duration of their brutal 10-game road trip, they will need a heavy dose of efforts such as the one Buchholz provided Friday night.

Like Earp, Buchholz set the tone.

"Buck was tremendous," manager Terry Francona said of the brand new father. "Any time you look up and are that deep into a game, you're doing something right."

On a day when principal owner John Henry implied that the Red Sox would "need another miracle" to reach the playoffs, they gave perhaps the best example of why they still can.

Boston holds the edge in the pitching matchup in three of the four games this weekend in New York. That'll be the case in several other series going forward. A starting rotation expected to dominate is beginning to show that it can, with Buchholz leading the way.

The All-Star right-hander surrendered a two-run homer in the first to Mark Teixeira. He scattered seven hits thereafter and did not walk a batter for the first time since last September.

Buchholz was quick to point out that the starters have been pretty solid for some time, but also admitted they are needed now more than ever.

"I think the pitching has been really good over the past two months," Buchholz said. "Every time someone goes out there, they put in a solid effort — six, seven, eight innings — trying to give the team a chance to win.

"That's what we're going to have to do over the next three days here."

With the victory Boston inched to within 4 1/2 games of the wild card-leading Tampa Bay Rays and to within five of the Yankees. After John Lackey faces New York ace CC Sabathia on Saturday, a surging Josh Beckett meets the combustible A.J. Burnett on Sunday night, and Jon Lester gets to oppose fill-in starter Dustin Moseley on Monday.

While the Sox throw out three guys you would love to go to battle with, the Yanks may have to hold their breath more than once.

Anyway, back to our story. Earp eventually ends the Cowboys' reign, finds his long-lost love and lives happily ever after. The Sox, well-stocked in the rotation, are seeking a Hollywood ending of their own.

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