The last couple of weeks have been a struggle for Red Sox starting pitching.
With Clay Buchholz battling nagging injuries, Jon Lester turning in duds in two of his last three starts and Felix Doubront, John Lackey and Ryan Dempster consistently up and down the starting rotation was urgently in need of a lift.
Alfredo Aceves gave it to them tonight in the final game of the series at Tampa Bay as he worked six strong innings to lead the Sox over the Rays 2-1 for yet another series win.
Aceves was recalled from Pawtucket to make the spot start in place of Franklin Morales, who had to pitch the final two innings of Monday’s 14-inning marathon and was unavailable for this game.
Aceves was wildly effective in the first three innings as he walked four, but allowed no runs. The Rays threatened in the third inning by putting the first two on but Aceves was able to wiggle out of it by striking out Kelly Johnson looking and inducing Evan Longoria to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Daniel Nava put the Sox up 2-0 with a laser shot two-run home run to right in the top of the third off Rays rookie starter Chris Archer, the latest in a long line of quality, young Rays arms. The homer came after a workman-like 10-pitch at-bat for Nava, who continues to make his case for a spot on the All-Star team.
Nava had a chance to blow the game open in the fourth as he came to bat with the bases loaded and Archer over 90 pitches. But this time Archer struck him out to end the inning and keep things at 2-0.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth when Longoria homered to center to cut the lead to 2-1. After finishing the inning Aceves called it a night as John Farrell went to his bullpen.
Aceves turned in a solid performance working six innings and allowing just the one run on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He gave the Sox a chance to win and in a spot start scenario that is all you can ask for.
The Sox offense struggled all night as they just could not get any timely hits to provide some insurance but the bullpen once again held the fort.
Craig Breslow worked a clean seventh and got the first two in the eighth before allowing a double to Johnson. Koji Uehara then came on and got the biggest out of the game as he fanned the dangerous Longoria to end the inning.
Andrew Bailey entered in the ninth for the save and promptly gave up a first pitch, lead off single to James Loney. Sam Fuld pinch ran and stole second after two were out but Bailey came through with the strikeout of Jose Lobaton to end it.
The Sox took two of three in the series and now move on to Baltimore for a four game weekend series with the Orioles. Game one tomorrow night features Doubront for Boston and rookie prospect Kevin Gausman for the Orioles.