'Pen is mighty for Red Sox in 14-inning victory

'Pen is mighty for Red Sox in 14-inning victory
April 17, 2014, 6:45 am
Share This Post

CHICAGO -- With the exception of one particular pitch by the starter and an inning by the temporary closer, Red Sox pitching was superb Wednesday night (and Thursday morning).

Then again, it had to be.

Red Sox hitters missed one opportunity after another to put the game away, stranding 16 baserunners and failing to generate a single hit out of the infield from the second inning through the 13th.

So it became incumbent on the pitching staff to hold the fort, which it did -- time and again -- in the Red Sox' improbable 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox in 14 innings.

"Our pitchers did a heck of a job tonight,'' said John Farrell. "The bullpen once again came in with not a lot of margin for error. They continued to put up zeroes."

The night didn't begin with much promise, as two errors, a hit batsman and a walk produced a 31-pitch first inning for Clay Buchholz. The next inning wasn't much better in terms of pitch count, with 20 more.

Fifty-one pitches after two suggested that this would be a short night for Buchholz.

"It was a little bit of a grind there for a couple of innings,'' said Buchholz. "It was sort of similar to [Jake Peavy] on [Tuesday] night. I had a long inning and sometimes you've got to find a way to pick your team up when things happen in an inning. Tried to battle to get through that first one.

"It's tough to bounce back from a first inning like that. But this team, everbody knows they like to swing, so I was able to get through a couple of innings later on with a lot fewer pitches than I normally do.''

Indeed, from the third through the fifth, Buchholz retired 9 of 10 hitters he faced and made up some ground on his pitch count.

In the sixth, he threw a "sinker that didn't sink'' to Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez, resulting in a two-run homer that gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead which, at the time, seemed insurmountable given the number of chances the Red Sox offense had squandered.

It was up to the bullpen, then, to carry the load and buy time for the offense to come through.

The parade of relievers began in the seventh with Craig Breslow, followed by Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller. Together, the trio combined for four shutout innings, during which they allowed just two hits and no walks.

And when the Red Sox chipped away with a run in the eighth, another in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, and finally, another in the top of the 11th, the Sox were three outs away from a nice comeback win.

But Edward Mujica, filling in for Koji Uehara, issued a leadoff walk to Jordan Danks, and a stolen base and a groundout put the potential tying run a third for Tyler Flowers.

"He got ahead in the count to Danks to lead things off,'' said Farrell, "then went to his split a few times and ends up putting him on base. It's a bang-bang play at second on the steal and once [Danks] moved to third, there was probably more of a willingness to force contact with his fastball. Which he got, but unfortunately, it was just past the outstretched arm of Xander [Bogaerts and into center field for a game-tying single].''

Locked back into a tie game, the Sox put much of the rest of the burden on lefty Chris Capuano, who gave them 2 2/3 shutout innings, retiring the eight of the nine hitters he faced to claim his first career American League vidtory. 

"He's done and outstanding job,'' marveled Farrell of the lefty. "He's closing in on 40 pitches after being in the game [Tuesday] night. He comes in and throws strikes, multiple pitches for strikes in given counts and all in all, a solid night from the mound.''

It all it took every available member of the bullpen to get through it, as Burke Badenhop came in with a runner on first and two out in the bottom of the 14th and retired Marcus Semien for the final out of the game.

"Definitely a long one,'' concluded Buchholz. "But it's what you strive for, to win a game regardless of how [long it takes]."