Notes: Varitek does it all to beat Tribe

Notes: Varitek does it all to beat Tribe
May 25, 2011, 5:19 am
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By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- When Jason Varitek was asked to discuss his best game of the season, like any good catcher, he preferred to talk about his pitchers.

But reporters pushed. Varitek had just hit his first home run of the year, and he threw out two would-be base stealers in a 4-2 win over the Indians. The media wasn't going to let him get away that easily.

He relented.

"I dont know how long its been since last hitting a home run, Varitek said. It was nice . . . the timing of it. I've had good quality at-bats; whether I hit a home run or not, I don't know. I've been having some good at-bats. I couldn't have started any worse. I was 1-for-40 and after that I started having competitive at-bats and not necessarily the results.

The timing of his two-run home run his first in 117 at-bats since May 30, 2010 could not have been better, providing the difference in the Red Sox 4-2 win over the Indians.

Throwing out two attempted base stealers for the first time since catching Seattles Chone Figgins twice on Sept. 14, 2010 proved valuable, too. In the third inning he cut down Shin-Soo Choo trying to steal second, to end the inning. In the fourth inning, Varitek caught Travis Buck attempting to steal second.

Huge, said Josh Beckett, the beneficiary of Variteks performance. Its my pitch count. I put myself in some bad situations, and I think I had three 1-2-3 innings, and two of them were because of him. Saves me pitches.

Varitek and Beckett have been paired since Becketts second start of the season. Since then, Beckett has not lost. Its satisfying for him to see Varitek succeed.

Its great, he said. Hes always helping me, but whenever you're able to throw somebody out and help me on a night where my breaking stuffs not the best, it just keeps me from throwing more pitches because Im a little stubborn sometimes and I continue to work on things.

I think hes been putting together some pretty good at-bats. I think hes been hitting some balls hard. I know he lined out in his last start catching me, sometimes the balls just dont fall. But I really feel hes seeing the ball a lot better.

Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is growing more comfortable in his role as the Sox primary catcher, have solidified the Sox catching.

Well, both guys have complemented each other I think really well, said manager Terry Francona. Weve been talking about it the last week or so but, 'Tek made some good throws tonight. Bangs the ball out of the ballpark. We were talking about it before the game. They do that every once in a while, just sitting down there in the nine hole, or tonight in the seven. But its come together a lot better.

The catching had been a concern for Francona.

I think when were 2-10, that were probably worried about everything, he said. I think we have confidence in guys and certainly need to be patient and I think thats paying off. But we werent playing very well. But because its our job, I think we do worry about things like that.

Varitek is happy with the way he and Saltalamacchia have complemented each other.

"I think we're the same that we were, he said. I think with our entire team -- you
cant judge our entire team in one week for an entire season. Once things
settled down we won some games. Everybody contributes."

The Sox are an American League-best 15-7 in May.

The win snaps the Sox five-game losing streak at Progressive Field, going back to last season.

David Ortiz went 2-for-4, extending his hit streak to six games. He is batting .370 (10-for-27) in that stretch. Since May 2 he has 10 multihit games in his last 20, batting .341 (28-for-82) with 7 home runs and 9 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez went 1-for-4, with a five-game hit streak, batting .521 (12-for-23). He extended his league lead in RBI to 42.

Rich Hill has not allowed a run in his seven appearances, spanning seven innings, with 10 strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia was not in the lineup Tuesday, with Drew Sutton taking his place. Pedroia stumbled rounding second base in the eighth inning Monday night, tweaking his surgically repaired left foot. Francona said he talked with Pedroia Tuesday morning and the second baseman reported that he was fine. But Francona thought it would be a good chance to give him a day off.

Francona is pleased with the way Pedroia and his foot, with a screw embedded in it, have been holding up.

Like a champ, Francona said. Thats what he does. Hes in the training room every day and hes not a training-room guy. Hes in there doing his stuff with the trainers, and keeping himself where hes able to be out on the field every day.

With Pedroia out, Jed Lowrie moved into the second spot in the lineup, rather than Carl Crawford, who has spent most of his career batting second.

We did consider that, but I dont want to be bouncing Crawford around, because Pedey will be back in there tomorrow, Francona said. And we would have had lefties Jacoby Ellsbury, Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. hitting 1-2-3. Cleveland lefty reliever Tony Sipps been getting every lefty out in the world. So just dont want to invite that.

Sipp held lefties to a .040 average (1-for-25) this season, with eight strikeouts and no extra base hits before Tuesday night's game.

Daniel Bard was not available Tuesday. He threw 11 pitches Monday, being charged with a blown save and the loss. He also threw 22 on Sunday.

He could pitch, but we wont, Francona said before the game. He said he feels good but we wouldnt do that. Hes a tough one. Hes so good. Hes so durable. Hes also so young and hes got a terrific career ahead of him. We sat down with him yesterday just to talk to him about that. He gives you such good answers that its easy to talk to him.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen