Two wins against the Detroit Tigers gave the Red Sox four in a row and had Boston two games over .500. But a loss in the series finale to the Tigers and two more to the American League's second-worst team in the Minnesota Twins have the Red Sox at 53-54 entering action on Saturday.
Boston is still just four games out of the second wild card spot, and they can take solace in the fact that two of the teams ahead of them — the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays — are playing each other this weekend, meaning that the Sox are guaranteed to make up ground on someone with a victory.
The one constant for the Red Sox since the All-Star break has been the play of Clay Buchholz, who has assumed the role of ace of the Sox' rotation. Buchholz made his third straight outing of seven innings or more while allowing two or fewer earned runs in Boston's victory over Detroit on Monday, and on the strength of that performance he is the Amica Pitcher of the Week for the third straight week.
Buchholz went eight strong innings against the Tigers, and though Austin Jackson led off the game with a home run, Buchholz was in control after that, allowing just two further runs — only one of them earned — while surrendering just five hits.
The righty's ERA on the season still reads a rather ugly 4.75, but he's been dominant since late May, with a 5-1 record, 2.44 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP over his last nine starts. Buchholz will take the mound again on Saturday looking to snap the Sox' three-game losing streak. With the way he's been pitching, he'd be a good bet to do just that.
Buchholz narrowly edged Jon Lester to win the Amica Pitcher of the Week Award, with Lester tossing eight strong innings in a 5-0 loss to the Twins on Thursday. Lester rebounded from a four-start stretch in which he allowed 25 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings to hold Minnesota to just three runs over eight frames. Unfortunately, Twins starter Samuel Deduno was even better, allowing just two hits over six innings to hand Lester his ninth loss of the season.
In the bullpen, newly acquired Craig Breslow has impressed in two appearances since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Mark Melancon combined to allow five hits over six scoreless innings this week and were a key reason the Sox were able to stay in Friday's game with the Twins after starter Felix Doubront allowed five runs over his first five innings of work.
The Red Sox will hope Buchholz comes through again on Saturday, as they face a tough schedule after the Twins series wraps up on Sunday. Series with the Rangers, Indians, Orioles, Yankees and Angels await, and Boston's starting pitching will play a big role in determining if the Red Sox can remain in playoff contention during that stretch.
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