Minutes into the bottom of the first inning of their series opener against the Orioles, those haunting thoughts were put to rest. In a hurry.
Sparked by Dustin Pedroia's first career multihomer game, Boston smacked a season-high six dingers -- four of which came off Baltimore's rookie right-hander -- and never looked back in a 10-0 romp over the Orioles.
Coupled with the Rangers' doubleheader sweep of the Indians on Tuesday, Boston (80-58) now owns a two-game lead over Texas in the American League Wild Card race.
Each of the Red Sox's first five hits left the yard to back a sterling effort from Clay Buchholz, who allowed just three hits over seven shutout innings. The right-hander carried a perfect game into the fourth en route to his fourth consecutive victory.
"Very good," Boston manager Terry Francona said of Buchholz, who improved to 5-3. "They had to respect every pitch that he could throw for strikes. He was able to pound his fastball in, and expand the plate away with his curveball, slider and changeup. That's a nice mix.
"When he pitches like that, and I'm not trying to get ahead of myself, it's amazing how good the organization feels about the future. You look at him out there putting up zeroes, and the way he can do it, it's very exciting."
Of course, an 8-0 cushion through three innings never hurts.
"He probably looked like a combination of Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax when he got an 8-0 lead," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, whose team fell to 56-82. "He kept pitching."
"The results were there," Buchholz said. "I had a steady mix of pitches that I was able to throw over the plate for strikes, and as the game went on, they started chasing pitches a little bit off the plate, which always helps."
|David Ortiz's solo home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night was his 269th as a designated hitter, tying Frank Thomas for the most long balls at that position.|
Buchholz has settled into quite a groove over the past month, going 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA and six quality starts in seven outings since Aug. 8. He's yielded three runs or fewer in nine of his 11 appearances this season.
"He's been getting stronger each time he goes out," Pedroia said. "Hopefully he can keep it going."
Hernandez (4-7) tossed seven frames of one-run ball against the Red Sox on July 26, but he struggled mightily in his return to the Fens, allowing six runs over just 2 2/3 innings.
"We got on top of his fastball tonight," Pedroia said. "He has good stuff, and he throws hard, but I think the more you see guys in the division, you have a better approach of how you're going to face somebody."
Boston had an excellent approach from the get-go, becoming the first team in club history to belt five long balls over the first three innings of a game.
Following a leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first, Pedroia launched a fastball well over the Green Monster for a two-run shot.
Pedroia's mind-set going into the at-bat? The same as always.
"Just hit the ball hard," Pedroia said. "Just try to find a way to hit the ball hard. If you do that, things are going to happen."
Tuesday was especially unique for Pedroia, who, despite cracking 17 taters during last year's AL Most Valuable Player campaign, insists that he hits home runs by accident.
"I'm not trying to hit them," Pedroia said. "I'm trying to hit line drives, sometimes they just get up in the air and get out of here. It's not like I'm going to hit 30 home runs in a year or anything like that, but I'll definitely hit some."
Pedroia's teammates also hit a few roundtrippers, as Kevin Youkilis demolished a 3-1 fastball to left later in the first before Alex Gonzalez crushed a 2-0 offering from Hernandez over the Monster one inning later.
The Red Sox put the game out of reach with a four-run third. Pedroia lifted a Hernandez changeup over the left-field wall, and J.D. Drew drove a belt-high 87-mph fastball from Chris Lambert into the Boston bullpen for a three-run blast.
Boston tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh on Victor Martinez's RBI groundout and David Ortiz's solo shot to center, respectively. The homer was No. 269 as a designated hitter for Ortiz, who tied Frank Thomas for the all-time mark at that position.
Losing three of four to the White Sox over the weekend seemed like a distant memory for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, as they kicked off an eight-game homestand by using hitter-friendly Fenway to their advantage once again.
"It's good to be home," Pedroia said. "After the end of that road trip, we wanted to get home and play well."
"We turned the page," Ortiz said. "Simple as that."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.