Buchholz notches first win of season

Buchholz notches first win of season

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez was resting. Jason Varitek (flu), Coco Crisp (left hamstring) and Mike Lowell (sprained thumb) were still recovering. The marathoners outside of Fenway Park were huffing and puffing.

The Red Sox? They just keep rolling.

With a lineup that had a less-than-imposing 7-8-9 combo of Julio Lugo, Kevin Cash and Joe Thurston, the Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Rangers with a stress-free 8-3 victory in Monday's annual Patriots Day game, which started at 11:05 a.m. ET.

The offense -- short-handed or not -- erupted for five runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Lugo (4-for-4) all had multi-hit games.

"It's not always perfect," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "You get banged up, or sick and things happen, but we played a good game. On a day when you start at 11 and you want a lot of energy, our guys did that."

The Rangers paid for it.

"They're a good team and when you're a team, it doesn't matter who you put out there," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "They rely on everybody and seems like everybody seems to contribute. I think you ask any manager if it's nice not to see Manny in the lineup and they'll tell you, 'Yes.' I'm not different. But these guys, they scored runs."

Right-hander Clay Buchholz took care of things from the pitching end, turning in what was easily his best start of 2008. Buchholz reeled off six strong innings, allowing five hits and no runs. He walked two and struck out six.

The performance gave Buchholz (1-1, 4.79 ERA) his first victory of 2008 and provided memories of the hot-shot prospect who threw a no-hitter on Sept. 1.

"I think you're seeing some arm strength continuing to gain here," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "When he does have to go to his fastball in certain counts, he's got a little bit more of a weapon than he did in his first couple of outings of the season. Today was more akin to the way Clay pitched when he came up to us last year."

The 14-7 Sox have won five in a row, and nine of their last 10.

"We're playing well -- having good at-bats all throughout the game," said Jed Lowrie, who contributed with a key bunt single. "We're pitching well. Everything just seems to be clicking right now. It's just one of those things you try to hold on to as long as you can."

In what proved to be a big blow to the Rangers, lefty Kason Gabbard had to leave the game after just two innings with back stiffness. Reliever Dustin Nippert took the brunt of the punishment from the Boston bats, giving up nine hits and eight runs over 2 1/3 innings.

"With Gabby having to leave because his back was stiff, that doesn't help them," said Francona. "We got into their bullpen and they got into situations where they had to leave guys out there and we took advantage of it."

The fun for the Sox started in the bottom of the fourth. J.D. Drew walked and then Lowrie pushed down a bunt, and it went right over Nippert's head and dropped in.

"The initial thought was, 'Bunt it down the right side, hard past the pitcher,'" Lowrie said. "The pitch was away, so I tried to push it by him on that side. I didn't try to put it in the air. It was one of those things, I was trying to get it that way, hard on the ground past the pitcher, but it worked out when it got in the air."

Lugo kept the heat on, lining a single up the middle to break the scoreless tie. From there, the hits kept coming.

The Rangers were hurt even on a lineout, as second baseman Ian Kinsler snared Cash's ball out of the air and then tried to pick Lugo off at first. But the throw sailed away and Lowrie came home. Then it was Pedroia's turn and he nailed a double into nearly the exact same spot in right-center field that his game-trying hit landed on Sunday, this time getting two runs home. Ortiz lofted what could have been a flyout to left, but the sun blinded Milton Bradley, who fell down, and another run came home, giving the Sox five in the inning.

The Red Sox were right back at it in the fifth. Ellsbury drove a run home on a single to left. Ortiz went the other way again, getting two runs home on a double.

Buchholz and the bullpen took it from there.

"I've felt like I've had good stuff just about every time I've gone out, but there's a difference between having good stuff and just going out and pitching," said Buchholz. "It's a whole world of difference, and I actually pitched today instead of just going out there and throwing curveballs and changeups and hoping something good will come out of it. I felt like me and Cash were both in sync together today."

The same could be said for the Red Sox, who looked like they had their A team out there, even if they didn't.

"If you just pay attention to the task at hand, if you're good enough, that usually works," said Francona.

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