Gabbard keeps rolling with win

Gabbard keeps rolling with win

BOSTON -- One year and one day after making his Major League debut as an anonymous callup, Kason Gabbard again proved why he is now a pitcher who is very much on the radar of Red Sox Nation.

The 25-year-old left-hander has simply sparkled while filling in for the recovering Curt Schilling. Gabbard turned in another strong showing on Saturday, limiting the White Sox to three hits and a run over seven innings and lifting the Red Sox to an 11-2 win.

This on the heels of his complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Royals five days earlier.

How important was it for Gabbard to follow up one masterpiece with another?

"Very important," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "[Also] meaningful and exciting."

The thing the low-key Gabbard was probably most excited about was having his father, Joe, in the stands after driving nearly 1,500 miles from Florida. You see, Joe Gabbard has never been on an airplane.

This was the second time Joe Gabbard has taken the lengthy drive to Boston to watch Kason pitch. And just like last September, in a start that was also against the White Sox, the son responded with a win.

"It was great," said Gabbard. "He drove all the way up. Him and my mom left Thursday. They got here last night. He's never flown, never been on a train. I think that's the way he wants it."

The way Gabbard has been pitching at Fenway Park, his dad might want to keep the motor running. Gabbard is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five career stats at Fenway. He became just the third pitcher in franchise history to win his first five Major League home starts, joining Dave "Boo" Ferriss (1945) and George Winter (1901).

"I wish I could have every start here," said Gabbard. "I love pitching here. The fans are great. You know, it's just one of those things, I feel real comfortable here."

While Gabbard set the tone in the early and middle stages of the game, the Boston bats put it away later. Clinging to a 2-1 lead after five, the Red Sox scored two in the sixth and a season high of seven runs in the seventh to ice it.

Coco Crisp had a big day, going 3-for-4 with five RBIs.

It all began to click for Crisp on the night of June 18 in Atlanta. Ever since then, he's been the player the Red Sox hoped to be getting when they made the trade for him in January 2006.

Crisp declined to speak with reporters after his big day. His teammates were more than happy to talk about his performance.

"That's huge. He sparks our team," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Defensively, he's the best center fielder in baseball, and offensively, man, he makes things happen. So once he gets on base, he can go at any time. It's fun to watch."

While Crisp was the main producer early, everyone got into the act in that bottom of the seventh, when the Red Sox saw some 63 pitches from a beleaguered Chicago bullpen.

The inning included five walks and was punctuated by Eric Hinske, who belted a two-run triple.

By and large, though, the story of the game was Gabbard, who did have one forgettable stumble in Seattle in his first start after replacing Schilling. But in his last four starts, he's gone 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

"He was able to keep the ball down, throw strikes on both sides of the plate, mix in his other two pitches -- his curveball and his changeup," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "But again, he didn't run into that walk trouble, and when we don't, you're able to throw enough strikes, you're able to expand the zone a little bit."

Schilling began his Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night with an overpowering three innings (two hits, no runs, no walks, six strikeouts) and is probably just a couple of weeks away from returning to the Red Sox. However, Gabbard might earn himself a spot in the rotation even when Schilling comes back.

Whatever the case, Gabbard has grown a lot in the span of one year.

"I think I've come a long way -- just trusting myself," Gabbard said. "And honestly the game doesn't change from level to level. It's all the same game, and you go out there and try to do the same thing."

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