Clay Buchholz was in control on Thursday against the Braves. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Closing Time: Clay Buchholz pitches undermanned Red Sox to victory over Braves

John Tomase
June 18, 2015 - 7:01 pm
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No more proclamations. No more reading more into a win than it deserves. Let's just say the Red Sox took care of business on Thursday night and leave it at that. Behind another strong outing from right-hander Clay Buchholz and some opportunistic offense after an error gave them an extra out in the sixth, the Red Sox cruised past the Braves for a 5-2 victory that for one night, at least, quelled any talk of losing streaks or clubhouse chaos or Instagram hotties. "Regardless of what has gone on, a win is always a good thing," manager John Farrell told reporters in Atlanta. "We need as many as we can get, obviously. Again, very good pitching, some timely hitting '€” a good mix tonight." Playing without third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who was benched for violating team and league rules on social media, as well as second baseman Dustin Pedroia (knee), the Red Sox pieced together enough offense to back Buchholz for just their second win in 10 games. It was a much-needed victory after the events of the previous 24 hours, when eagle-eyed blogger Jared Carrabis noticed that Sandoval had "liked" a couple of photos from a comely young woman on Instagram, and hours later Sandoval found himself on the bench after apologizing to the team. In his place, Triple A call-up Travis Shaw made a couple of nice plays at third, but the real story was Buchholz, who utilized an excellent two-seam fastball to get in on right-handed hitters and keep the Braves off balance. He struck out three and walked one over seven innings, scattering six hits. He threw 92 pitches and 63 strikes. The last time Buchholz pitched in Atlanta, last May, he allowed six hits and eight walks in just three innings, wilting in the heat before spending a month on the DL. "I underestimated it last year, the heat and how much that can affect you if you're not used to it," Buchholz said. "I knew what I was doing coming into the game today. It wasn't a day game, so that helped out, too. But yeah, if you're not ready for the heat it can get to you. It's one of the things I wasn't going to let affect me today." It seemed for a while that he'd need to be perfect before the Red Sox got to Miller, who entered the game with an ERA of 2.03. David Ortiz plated the first run in the fourth with a groundout, and the Red Sox broke loose in the sixth, thanks in no small part to third baseman Juan Uribe dropping a Mookie Betts foul pop-up with no outs and Holt on first. Given second life, Betts lined a single to left. Ortiz followed with a sharp single to right, and the Braves looked like they had dodged a bullet when Hanley Ramirez fouled off ball four before grounding into a double play. Miller couldn't finish the frame, however, with Xander Bogaerts (single) and Alejandro De Aza (double) lining two-out RBI hits to give the Red Sox a cushion. Buchholz made about his only mistake in the bottom of the sixth, muffing a two-out liner from old friend A.J. Pierzynski, rushing a gloved throw over the head of first baseman David Ortiz to let two runs score. That was all the Braves would get, however, and the Red Sox were able to breathe easy with a controversy-free win that sends them to Kansas City with two wins in their last three games. Baby steps. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Playing with a spring training lineup against one of the best pitchers in the National League, the Red Sox couldn't afford a mediocre outing from Buchholz, and he didn't give them one. He stymied the Braves over seven effective innings, dropping his ERA to 3.87 and improving to 4-6. WHAT WENT RIGHT -- Batting leadoff and playing second in place of Pedroia, Brock Holt continued his sizzling play, going 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs to pace the offense. "Just stick with my same approach I try to do regardless of where I'm hitting in the lineup," Holt said. "You're only a leadoff hitter one time. You'd like to see some pitches early, but you're also ready to hit in case they make a mistake." -- Meanwhile, re-inserted at the top of the order, center fielder Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with a run and RBI, giving the Red Sox breathing room with a run-scoring double in the seventh. -- The Red Sox did some two-out damage in the sixth. After a Hanley Ramirez double play grounder plated a run with the bases loaded, Xander Bogaerts made sure the opportunity wasn't wasted by lining an RBI single to right. Alejandro De Aza (2-for-3) followed with an RBI double to extend a 1-0 lead to 4-0. -- Closer Koji Uehara struck out two during a perfect ninth, including pinch hitter Jonny Gomes to end it for his 14th save. WHAT WENT WRONG -- Hey, they won! For once we don't have to fill up this column, except to say Hanley Ramirez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and also grounded into a bases-loaded double play.