It’s been a feast-or-famine situation when Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster is looking for run support from his teammates this season.
Last night, it was a feast of epic proportions.
The Sox ripped a season-high 20 hits and scored 11 runs against the visiting Colorado Rockies to lift Dempster (5-8) to the win.
Dempster, for his part, delivered his sixth straight “quality start” — definted as a start of at least six innings with no more than three earned runs — as he held the Rockies to six hits and two runs over six frames while striking out four and lowering his ERA to 4.15.
Boston is third in the American League in quality starts in 2013 with 45, trailing only Detroit (49) and Oakland (46), and Dempster is tied for the team lead in that category with Clay Buchholz at 10 apiece. Other AL starters with 10 quality starts logged include a couple guys by the names of Verlander and Darvish.
Pretty select company.
“I value (the quality start statistic) as a marker for giving your team a chance to win a ballgame," Dempster said. "Obviously you’re trying to do your job as a starter and go six, seven, eight innings and keep the score as close as possible. It’s something I value, but I value the innings and the quality innings more than that."
While Dempster gave up an absolute, no-doubt moon shot to Wilin Roasario in the second inning that cleared the Green Monster and landed on the roof of the parking garage across Lansdowne Street, Dempster did so with no men on base, limiting the potential damage. It’s been a hallmark of the homers he’s surrendered this year — 15 of the 17 long balls he’s allowed have been of the solo variety.
“I’ve always said solo home runs don’t beat you,” said Dempster. “I wish there hadn’t been that many I’ve given up, but you know especially in a situation like tonight where we’re putting up runs, I’m trying to attack the strike zone and if somebody hits one out they hit one out.”
Dempster was no doubt thrilled to see the Sox piling on hits and runs in bulk against the Rockies. In nine of his 16 starts this season, the Sox have only scored three runs or less to back him up.
However, in three of his last five starts the Sox decimated the opposition by scoring 38 runs, giving Dempster three much-needed notches in his win column. Dempster threw 19 innings over those three games, allowing eight earned runs, walking five and striking out 16.
While Dempster suffered a shaky May, going 1-4 in six starts, he seems to be back on solid ground of late, posting an ERA of 3.58 in his last five outings. He currently leads the Sox in strikeouts (94) and starts (16) and is second in innings pitched behind Jon Lester.
When the Sox signed the 35-year-old righty to a two-year, $26.5-million contract in the offseason, the front office was seeking a dependable, consistent innings-eater to lock down the back end of the rotation.
Almost midway through the season, Dempster is starting to look every bit like that guy, and then some.