Koji Uehara retired four in a row Friday to earn his 15th save of the
season in Boston's 4-3 win over Chicago (Jim Davis/Boston Globe)
Koji Uehara, no stranger to the slap up-high, deserves a big one after getting an early, four-out call from the bullpen in Friday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox and retiring four straight batters — two by way of the K — to earn his 15th save of the season and lock down a 4-3 win for Boston, now 80-56 on the year.
Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation might be of the opinion that starter Ryan Dempster needs to be levied more meaningless suspensions.
Dempster, lightly slapped on the wrist last week with a five-game suspension by Major League Baseball after plunking Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium April 18, came back strong from his mini-vacation. The right hander went six and a third, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out five. He looked a little rusty in the first, walking the first two batters he faced, but then went on to retire 11 in a row before allowing Chicago's first hit and run in the fifth. He ended up with the win to move to 7-9 with a 4.75 ERA on the year.
Chicago starter Hector Santiago, however, had problems finding the plate in just 3.2 innings of work, throwing 49 of his 101 pitches for balls, walking five and surrendering four runs before giving way to a Chicago bullpen that held the Red Sox scoreless the rest of the way. Santiago took the loss to fall to 4-8 this season.
On another positive note for the Red Sox, David Ortiz shook off an 0-for-23 slump in the fourth with a two-run single that put the Sox up 4-0, while Shane Victorino had another great night from the right side of the plate, going 2 for 4 with an RBI.
It was a fitting gift for the enduring spirit of Splendid Splinter Ted Williams, who would have celebrated his 95th birthday today.
Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:
1) Walk This Way: In the third, Santiago hit Jonny Gomes with a pitch to load the bases with two out, and Mike Napoli drew a walk to force home Victorino with the first run of the night to put the Red Sox up 1-0.
2) Shane, Yet Again: In the fourth, after Will Middlebrooks singled and then stole his first base since Aug. 5, 2012, Victorino ripped a single to cash him in. It gave the Flyin’ Hawaiian his 11th RBI in the last five games and Boston a 2-0 lead.
3) Welcome Back, Big Papi: Still in the fourth, with Victorino on third and Pedroia on second, David Ortiz snapped a brutal, 0-for-23 skid, singling to left center to drive home both runners for a 4-0 Boston advantage.
4) Triple Threat: In the seventh, with one out and a man on first, Alejandro De Aza laced a pitch from reliever Junichi Tazawa into right for a triple that scored Dayan Viciedo, brought Chicago within a run and cut Boston’s lead to 4-3.
Meanwhile, out on the West Coast, the Oakland Athletics edged the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 to increase Boston's first-place lead in the American League East Division to 3.5 games.
Tomorrow, in Round Two of the three-game set, Boston sends newly acquired hurler Jake Peavy (2-1, 3.31 ERA) to the mound to take on his former team for the first time since being dealt by Chicago at the trade deadline. He’ll face John Danks, who is 4-10 with a 4.15 ERA for the White Sox in 2013. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. EST.