Plenty to gab about Gabbard

Plenty to gab about Gabbard

BOSTON -- The Red Sox had a spot starter -- one who was enlisted from Triple-A Pawtucket and sent right back down after the game -- facing a pitcher who had been consistently excellent this season. Kason Gabbard vs. Tim Hudson did, in fact, end up being a mismatch.

But the Red Sox, who own the best record in the Major Leagues at 30-13, are no longer surprised when what looks like a disadvantage winds up in their favor.

That's just how things are going around here, and it was Gabbard and the Sox who dispatched the Braves, 6-3, on Sunday before a patient crowd of 36,140 that waited through a rain delay of 2 1/2 hours.

"It's not an easy day for him," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He really kept his composure throughout the delay. He doesn't change his facial expression much anyway, but he stayed ready."

Gabbard, making his first start at the Major League level this season, didn't mind the wait. Once the left-hander got to the mound, he held the Braves at bay to six hits and two runs while striking out seven over five-plus innings.

Once the game was over, the Sox had the unenviable task of optioning Gabbard back to Pawtucket after a job well done. But with an off-day on Thursday, the Sox only need four starters until Josh Beckett returns from the disabled list on May 28. Reliever Manny Delcarmen replaced Gabbard on the roster and will join the Sox in New York on Monday.

Gabbard, who also had two strong starts for Boston last year, made his short stay a productive one.

"Kason's got good stuff and he pitched effectively tonight, using his changeup and his curveball, and that little bite he has on his fastball," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "He had them guessing. He had some bad swings at his changeup. I think he was excited to be here. It didn't matter what time that game was going to start, he was excited to go out there and take the mound."

Hudson? For the first time in 10 starts this season, the right-hander was unable to produce a quality start. In fact, the Red Sox struck for a four-spot in the first and cruised the rest of the way. For Hudson, it was the continuation of misfortune at Fenway. Though he outdueled Pedro Martinez in his Fenway debut way back in 1999, Hudson is 0-5 with an 11.95 ERA since that opening act.

"It's not an easy place to pitch," said Hudson. "Obviously I haven't fared well here over the last few starts. But at the same time, it seems like every time I've come here, I've had the worst stuff I've had all year. "

After sitting through the long rain delay, the Red Sox used their pent-up energy to knock Hudson around the yard. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the first, Jason Varitek belted a three-run triple down the right-field line.

"Any time you have Hudson on the mound, you have to take the opportunities when you can," said Varitek. "Luckily, I got a pitch to hit."

Hudson knew it.

"I made a horrible pitch to Varitek right there," Hudson said. "I had a cutter back up on me. So it was pretty much just a heater down the middle. That was pretty much the game right there."

Eric Hinske followed Varitek's knock with an RBI single to right to give Gabbard a 4-0 cushion.

The Sox put together a much briefer rally in the second. Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, and Coco Crisp sacrificed him over to third with a bunt. Following a walk to Youkilis, David Ortiz drove home Pedroia with a fielder's choice, making it 5-0.

Red-hot Youkilis kept the pressure on Hudson in the fifth by raking a solo homer just inside the Pesky Pole in right.

After an exhausting five days that included a rainout, a doubleheader, a rainout, a doubleheader and then Sunday's delayed gratification, the Sox were pleased to have such a comfortable win.

"We've been at this ballpark a lot of hours these past couple of days," said Francona. "It's nice to play with a lead."

The biggest threat produced by the Braves came in the sixth, when they got a single by Chipper Jones and a double by Jeff Francoeur to lead off the inning. Gabbard then left the game with runners on second and third, and reliever Brendan Donnelly allowed both of those inherited runners to score. But Javy Lopez bailed the Sox out of a one-out bases-loaded jam by getting a 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Scott Thorman.

With a 10 1/2-game lead in the American League East, the Red Sox had a confident demeanor about them as they prepared for the short journey to New York.

"We don't need to worry about [anybody] right now," said Ortiz. "Everybody needs to worry about us. When you're paying attention to whatever happens somewhere else, then you get distracted by whatever is happening out there and you lose your focus on the game. We're winning. [We] just have to keep on playing, keep on rolling."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.