After facing Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle, taking on Ricky Nolasco must have seemed like an absolute mercy to a beleaguered Red Sox lineup.
While they didn't go completely nuts against Nolasco, pushing across a run with small ball in the third, a David Ortiz solo shot in the fourth, and a few quick singles in the sixth, it was more than could be said against any of those first five pitchers, and that was just an appetizer to the bullpen.
Six straight batters would reach against a combination of Chad Gaudin, Randy Choate, and Ryan Webb, scoring three runs in the eighth before Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a sacrifice fly. Webb would quickly pick up a second out, but two more runs would come across before he managed to make it three.
That rally? Started with a Nick Punto double, ended with a Nick Punto single.
This offensive outburst has been so long in coming that it actually managed to overshadow an impressive bounce-back night for Felix Doubront, who for the first time this year completed the seventh inning. In fact, he would even take a no-hitter into the sixth before a missed location on a fastball resulted in a solo shot for Jose Reyes. He would face trouble again in the seventh, allowing the first two batters to reach second and third, but got a pop-up, ground out, and fly out to limit the damage to just one run.
All told, Doubront threw seven innings of two-run ball, once again compiling an impressive strikeout total of nine with just three hits and one walk--masterful stuff from the young southpaw who just endured his first bad start in his first full season in the majors.
The hope now is that the Sox are back to being streaky, which would help explain that slide (along with the starting pitching they faced) and suggest that they're on track for a few more wins before this is over. They'll take a day off tomorrow before facing off against the Cubs, where they'll really need to take advantage of an opportunity against some weaker competition.