Red Sox Notes: Shane Victorino Hits Ground Running In Return To Lineup

BOSTON — Independence Day has been kind to the Red Sox.

Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox defeated the Houston Astros 6-1 in a Fourth of July matinee Saturday at Fenway Park, improving Boston’s all-time record on America’s birthday to 91-67.

Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe the Red Sox are just that damn patriotic. Either way, Boston had its stuff together Saturday afternoon, and it put the club back into the win column after a disappointing extra-inning loss in Friday’s series opener.

Let’s run down some notes from a fine July 4 at Fenway.

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— Buchholz tossed his ninth career complete game. It was his first since Aug. 31 of last season and his first at Fenway since June 7, 2012.

Buchholz is the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a complete game on the Fourth of July since Paul Quantrill in 1993 and the first Boston hurler to do so on Independence Day at Fenway since Mike Torrez in 1979.

— Buchholz was perfect in the first, third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. He’s 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA (three earned runs in 31 innings) over his last four starts.

— It would have been interesting to see how the Red Sox handled their catching situation if Blake Swihart didn’t land on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Sandy Leon seemed like the potential odd man out with Ryan Hanigan back, but the 26-year-old has been so good in conjunction with Buchholz that it would have been difficult to mess with that. Plus, Leon is out of minor league options.

Leon, who also had three hits Saturday, has had a good rapport with Buchholz since the two first worked together in spring training. Buchholz is 6-4 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 starts with Leon behind the plate. The right-hander has a 7.11 ERA in four starts with Hanigan calling the signals.

“He receives the ball really well, calls a good game,” Buchholz said of Leon. “We seem to be on the same page a majority of the time, and when we’re not, it’s usually one pitch out of an inning. It’s not like I’m out there shaking off a whole lot. … We think alike a lot of the time, for some reason.”

— Xander Bogaerts is hitting .500 (13-for-26) with runners in scoring position since June 7.

— Mookie Betts made a costly mistake Friday. His response? Two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.

“The one thing we’ve come to know about Mookie in the last year and a half is that when something has happened inside of a game, he learns, he applies what he’s learned from the experience that just happened — positive or negative,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s a smart player in addition to the talents that he has.”

Betts is hitting .429 (12-for-28) over the life of a six-game hit streak.

— Shane Victorino hit the ground running in his return to the lineup. He went 2-for-4, which actually extended his hit streak to seven games, though he hadn’t played since May 23.

“We all know the start and stop of his season,” Farrell said. “But to have another guy at the bottom of the order right now with the base-stealing ability, the baserunning ability — two base hits against a right-hander (Saturday) — it’s very encouraging.”

— Pablo Sandoval’s defense seems to be improving after a rough stretch earlier this season. He made a couple of nice plays, including one in which he tumbled over the railing located in front of the visitors’ dugout to make a catch.

“The railing stayed up, and he’s fearless. The guy loves to play,” Farrell said. “He’s been making some quality plays at third base of late.”

Sandoval described it as a “big man going over a small railing,” which is entirely accurate.

Thumbnail photo via Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports Images

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