Although Ryan Dempster missed out on an opportunity to make Red Sox strikeout history, he garnered something that he values even more highly: A win.
Dempster — who joined Pedro Martinez as the only two pitchers in franchise history to punch out seven or more batters in their first five starts for Boston — didn’t record his first strikeout until the fourth inning, and finished with just four strikeouts on the night. However, while pitching to contact, after Brett Lawrie led off the first with a homer, he shut down Toronto over the duration of his six-inning outing, limiting Toronto to three singles and three walks over the duration of his efficient outing in positioning the Sox for a 3-1 victory in the Rogers Centre.
When the Sox signed Dempster to a two-year, $26.5 million deal this offseason, he was expected to offer a reliable source of innings. Increasingly, he’s been that, with four straight outings of at least six innings.
At the same time, there were questions about how he would adapt to the AL East. With Thursday’s outing, he’s now faced all four of his divisional opponents, with a 2.34 ERA in 23 innings, 29 strikeouts and 11 walks.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– In an unexpected turn of events, when the Red Sox looked to lock down a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, it was Joel Hanrahan rather than Andrew Bailey who secured the save. Hanrahan tossed a scoreless ninth for the 100th save of his career, working around a leadoff single by getting an infield pop-up and a game-ending double play.
– Mike Carp continued his dazzling early-season performance as a role player, going 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk. In 31 plate appearances, Carp has driven in eight runs while forging a .464/.516/1.000 line.
– Mike Napoli launched his major league-leading 15th double of the season, though that was his only hit as part of a 1-for-5 night in which he punched out twice and grounded into a double play.
– Junichi Tazawa once again came into a game and extinguished a rally. Summoned with two on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, he initially wavered, issuing a walk to Brett Lawrie to load the bases, but recovered to blow away Adam Lind with a 95 mph fastball to end the inning. Tazawa has now stranded 10 of the 11 runners he’s inherited.
That said, there may be questions about whether he’s dealing with some early season fatigue. Tazawa did not walk a batter in any of his first 11 appearances this season while throwing 69 percent of his pitches for strikes. Thursday marked his third straight outing in which he permitted a walk, and his second appearance in his last three in which he threw more balls (6) than strikes (5); he has a 50 percent strike rate in that time (23 of 46 pitches for strikes).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-5 (though he did reach on an error), snapping an eight-game hitting streak. It was just his second game this year in which he’s failed to reach base by hit or walk.
– Though the Sox had plenty of opportunities with runners on base, they failed to capitalize on most of those. The team went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, leaving 12 runners on base.
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