It had to end some time. After ten awful games, the Red Sox have finally winners again, defeating the Atlanta Braves 8-6.
Ten games ago, we got the worst of both worlds. Clay Buchholz had shown in the first six weeks of the season that there was something clearly wrong with him, but the Red Sox just kept throwing him out there time and again. He was typically bad that night on the mound, but with the help of some defense and a good deal of luck, he somehow managed to escape with a passable six inning, three-run performance (with some 13 baserunners). Still, the Red Sox lost, leaving them one game poorer in the standings while still having to suffer another Buchholz start five games later.
And, as it would happen, five games after that. Today. If that was the worst of both worlds, today is the best. Or, at least, preferable. The Red Sox won, and while Clay Buchholz still didn't show any real signs of improvement, he did manage the sort of complete and total collapse that should finally have him onto the disabled list and out of the rotation. Completely incapable of finding the zone with any consistency, Buchholz issued three walks and a 400-foot out in the first couple innings, then coughed up three runs on three more walks and as many hits in the third. He would come back out for the fourth, but was only allowed to walk a sixth and seventh batter, giving up a double in between, before being mercifully removed from the game.
With both runners eventually scoring off Burke Badenhop, Buchholz would finish the day with six earned runs in three-plus innings of work. A true disaster start and, with the Red Sox having only scored one run through the first three innings, enough for a loss.
As has been happening these last couple games, though, the Red Sox were actually able to put together some actual offense. It all happened with two outs in the fifth inning. Daniel Nava worked a seven-pitch walk off of Ervin Santana, then moved to third when Brock Holt came up with a double to right field. Xander Bogaerts loaded the bases with a walk of his own, and Dustin Pedroia got the Red Sox back on the board with a big 0-2 hit, slapping a single in front of Justin Upton in left field.
Still, the Red Sox were down by three, leaving the big at bat to fall to none other than Big Papi. And as he has done so many times before, Boston's longest-tenured player came through in a big way. The mistake pitch was a curveball that hung up about waist high, and while it was outside, Ortiz did not make the mistake of trying to hook it, instead meeting it at just the right time and depositing it into the first row of seats past the left field wall, tying the game at six-a-side.
Of course, the Red Sox have been in late-innings tie games during this losing streak. They've made for some of the worst losses, in fact, particularly on the road. This time, however, they had another savior: Ian Thomas. No, he doesn't play for Boston, but Atlanta. The 27-year-old rookie reliever came into the game and, frankly, struck an impressive caricature of Clay Buchholz on the mound. It's difficult to describe just how wild Thomas was. It was all Gerald Laird could do to keep his pitches from sailing to the backstop, and sometimes he couldn't even do that.
Amusingly enough, it was actually an infield single which got the rally started off Thomas, with Brock Holt beating out the sluggish reliever to first. But from there, Thomas went to a three-ball count against every single batter. Xander Bogaerts drew a walk on a pitch that would have been behind a left-handed batter, then moved to second and Holt to third on an equally wild pitch. Dustin Pedroia joined the walk club, and while David Ortiz could not quite blow the game open (he did miss a 3-1 meatball) his fly ball to deep right field was enough to bring the go-ahead run home. A.J. Pierzynski added a single off a diving Andrelton Simmons' glove, and the Red Sox actually led by two with nine outs to go.
There would be some level of providence involved in those final outs. Jason Heyward would lead off the eighth inning with a hard hit to center field, but Jackie Bradley closed fast and fired the ball back in to second. The play at second was close as is, but Heyward slid well past the bag, and Dustin Pedroia applied the tag before he could dive back in, wiping away what could have been a big baserunner. The Braves would put another man on in the ninth against Koji Uehara, finally pitching in a save situation again, but a quick ground ball resulted in a double play, and the Red Sox finally, finally found themselves back in the win column.
They're 1-10 over there last 11 games. But at least for today they're 1-0.