The Red Sox avoided the sweep Wednesday night, defeating the Chicago White Sox 6-2 behind a productive night from Clay Buchholz.
While the Red Sox have a history of making unfamiliar, inexperienced pitchers look like world beaters, the way this game started off, Hector Santiago had to think he was in for a long night. While Jacoby Ellsbury made his traditional ground ball out to shortstop (he would actually reach base safely four times on the night), Santiago hit Jonny Gomes to give the Red Sox an early baserunner, then nearly allowed Dustin Pedroia to leave the park, with the second baseman's fly ball to left field bouncing off the wall for a double. Just a couple pitches later, and it was David Ortiz dropping a bloop single to left field, bringing home two quick runs for the Red Sox. David Ortiz would even end up stealing third later in the inning. No, seriously, that happened.
Any premonitions of doom for Santiago would prove premature, but it would have been impossible to know that before seeing the bottom of the order come up to bat. In his first two times through the Red Sox lineup, Santiago would allow the top five batters to reach base seven times. The bottom four, on the other hand, would go 0-for-8, striking out in every single at-bat. Mix in a David Ortiz double play, and the result was a bizarre progression of Santiago looking bad, then escaping trouble looking like a Cy Young contender.
Clay Buchholz didn't inspire much confidence either in his first inning. Buchholz would give up a single to Alejandro De Aza to start his night, and then walked the next two batters he faced. Luckily, though, Jarrod Saltalamacchia had thrown out De Aza at second, keeping Buchholz out of the truly sticky bases loaded, zero outs situation, and giving him a chance to fight his way out of the frame unscathed.
Buchholz would get into a couple more difficult innings, allowing a run in the third, but like Santiago managed to get the outs he needed when he needed them, if not in quite so flashy a fashion. Even with his pitch count hitting some bumps along the way, Clay was able to work through seven innings, holding the Red Sox' 2-1 lead.
Given the bumps along the way, Boston's 2-1 lead did not seem terribly sturdy, especially with Andrew Bailey expected to make his first appearance since going on the disabled list if a save was needed. The late innings would help put some fears to rest, though, as the middle of the order went back to work. David Ortiz and Mike Napoli each singled with one out in the eighth to give the bottom of the lineup another chance to come through. And while no big hit was forthcoming, Daniel Nava drew a walk, and Will Middlebrooks hit a sacrifice fly to score Ortiz and move Napoli to third. That second bit would prove important, as a wild pitch allowed him to score shortly thereafter.
In the ninth, it was the top of the lineup providing the baserunners, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonny Gomes reaching to start the inning, though Mike Napoli would once again join in with a walk. This time, though, the Red Sox did get the hit, with Daniel Nava singling to left field, bringing in two runs and giving the Red Sox a commanding 6-1 lead. While Andrew Bailey would give up a two-out homer to let the White Sox tack them back for one, with all the added insurance, it wasn't even cause for concern.