BOSTON -- Friday night rolled together a lot of what the Red Sox haven't seen lately: a win, a win at Fenway Park and a quality start from Clay Buchholz. Still, as has been the club's way this month, a 7-5 win over the Indians did not come without frights. The bullpen held on, ending Boston's losing streak at three.
"It still wasn't easy tonight," Buchholz said. "There were still times where things could have gotten bad, but the preparation of trying to minimize the damage in those particular innings, once again there were always runners on base."
It's a start for a struggling Red Sox team that's in the middle of a stretch of 20 games in as many days. Boston is 5-11 at home, and since April 16, has won just twice at Fenway.
Buchholz, who entered the day with the Majors' worst ERA among qualifiers, went 6 1/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) in the outing that was easily his finest of the season -- despite striking out none for just the second time in his career. The right-hander did not dazzle, but relative to his previous outings, he was in control and was not burnt by eight hits and three walks.
Again reliant on his curveball, Buchholz had a pair of 1-2-3 innings, in the fourth and sixth, and threw 68 of 111 pitches for strikes.
"I don't give up on a player until he gives up on himself," manager Bobby Valentine said before the game when asked about the consideration of sending Buchholz to the Minors.
Valentine showed faith in Buchholz by having no pitchers warming as the right-hander crossed the 100-pitch threshold with one out in the seventh inning and Boston ahead, 7-1. Quickly, the situation started to mirror Buchholz's outing against Oakland on April 30, when five of the six runs he was charged with scored in the seventh.
The hook was quicker this time. Buchholz was pulled after loading the bases with a walk. The Sox needed two pitchers, Andrew Miller and Rich Hill, to get out of the inning, and all three inherited runners scored, one of them on a Will Middlebrooks error.
"I never like to make an error, but especially in that situation like that. I just took a bad read on it," Middlebrooks said. "Just made a mistake, learn from it."
Buchholz left to a standing ovation and his fourth win.
"He was breaking left-handers' bats," Valentine said of an Indians' lineup that had seven left-handed hitters and two switch-hitters, or in essence, all lefties. "We hadn't seen that yet. They were hitting it off the end, getting in on him, snapping them in half. ... That indicates to me that the ball had that action that we need it to have for him to be successful."
Vicente Padilla cleaned up a two-on, one-out situation Franklin Morales left him in the eighth. Alfredo Aceves took his sixth save in eight chances.
The Red Sox's offense entered the day with the most doubles hit at home in the Majors, and their first five runs all came on two-baggers. Middlebrooks continued to rake with a two-run double to left in the bottom of the first against Ubaldo Jimenez, who was charged with all seven Sox runs in 4 1/3 innings.
"I should be really disappointed," Jimenez said. "If I would've done a better job, we probably would've won the game."
Dustin Pedroia increased the lead to 4-1 in the second with his own two-run double, and Cody Ross brought in the first of three runs in the fifth inning with a two-bagger.
"Always helps," Pedroia said of the early runs. "Offensively when a team scores four runs on you, you're more passive, it takes the aggressiveness out of your team. So you know we spotted him some runs, and [Buchholz] just went out there and attacked the zone."
The only run Buchholz allowed before the seventh came in the first, an inning that nearly spiraled out of control. With two outs, a hit batsmen loaded the bases. Valentine came out with some haste for a chat and Buchholz escaped the jam.
What did Valentine tell Buchholz?
"That he's a very good pitcher and I didn't want him to let that game get away from him, because of anything other than him being as good as he can possibly be, and probably some words that I won't use," said Valentine.
"He basically came out there and said, 'You know what? You need to get your stuff right and go after these guys and get these guys out so we can get in the dugout and win a ballgame,'" Buchholz said.
Daniel Nava played a strong left field, from a running catch near the line to playing a ball off the wall perfectly, and in the second, throwing out a runner at the plate to end the inning. The play at home got Indians third-base coach Steve Smith ejected.
"I didn't think it was a very good throw," Nava said. "I thought it was accurate, but I just didn't feel like I had a lot behind it. [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] did a great job blocking the plate."