Take no offense, disappointed Bruins fans. But Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster was rooting for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Dempster grew up a hockey fan in Canada and got to know many of the Blackhawks players during the nine seasons he spent with the Cubs. Dempster even held the Stanley Cup high over his head when it came to Wrigley Field in 2010.
“As somebody who loves hockey, it was great getting to know those guys,” Dempster said. “We attended a lot of the same charity events in the city. It was fun.”
Dempster never expected to find himself on the mound at Fenway Park a day after the Blackhawks stunned the Bruins with two late goals to win the Cup. But he did his part to salve the sports soul of his new city, pitching six strong innings Tuesday night as the Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies, 11-4.
So which night was better?
“Tonight was great, absolutely,” Dempster said.
Dempster (5-8) allowed two runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four before a crowd of 36,286.
For a change, Dempster enjoyed the comfort of run support. Before Tuesday, the Red Sox had scored three runs or fewer in 11 of the 15 games Dempster had started this season.
This time they had seven runs by the time the third inning was over and finished with a season-best 20 hits. Every starter had at least one.
Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5 and drove in four runs. On the day the Sox demoted former third baseman Will Middlebrooks to the minors, new third baseman Jose Iglesias was 3 for 5 with a double and one RBI.
“We have an incredible offense,” Dempster said. “You just go out there and worry about doing your job. The wins come both as a team and as an individual. That’s all I care about, is I when I start we win the game. I want to give us a chance to win the game.”
Dempster was wearing a blue United States Postal Service cap after the game. Perhaps it was an unintentional metaphor about his reliability. Dempster has gone at least six innings in 11 times and his 95⅓ innings are the second-most on the team and only six fewer than Jon Lester.
In his last six starts, Dempster has a 3.40 earned run average.
Dempster’s most important inning was the first. Dexter Fowler drew a walk to start the game before DJ LeMahieu bunted for a single. Dempster got Carlos Gonzalez to pop to third base on a 2-and-0 pitch before throwing a slider that Michael Cuddyer grounded to shortstop for a double play.
“Not what you what to do, to have runners on base facing Cargo and Cuddyer,” Dempster said. “Just trying to make some pitches. For the most part was able to execute my pitches tonight.”
Dempster allowed a long home run by Wilin Rosario in the second inning, the ball clearing everything in left.
“I didn’t see it. I think it hit a car on the Turnpike probably,” Dempster said.
The 36-year-old Dempster even hit 93 miles per hour with his fastball. He joked that the wind must have been blowing in. But manager John Farrell saw that as a good sign.
“Regardless of age, the arm strength continues to build,” he said.
The Rockies were back at Fenway for the first time since Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. Like then, it didn’t go well as starter Juan Nicasio allowed seven runs on 12 hits over 2⅓ innings.
The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 for 5) led off with a double moved to third when Shane Victorino was credited with a sacrifice bunt on what looked like an attempt at a hit.
Pedroia singled in the first run. Nicasio then walked David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to load the bases for Daniel Nava. His single to left scored Pedroia.
Nicasio retired the first two batters in the second inning before the next five Red Sox reached base.
Victorino, Pedroia, and Ortiz had consecutive doubles to score two runs. Napoli’s single gave the Red Sox a 5-1 lead.
Nicasio did not survive the third inning. Singles by Iglesias, Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia accounted for two runs with an error by Cuddyer in right field adding to the mess for Colorado.
Iglesias has reached base safely in 27 consecutive games, the longest streak for a Red Sox rookie since Trot Nixon had 27 straight in 1999. Iglesias is hitting .434 and has 12 extra-base hits in 34 games.
He welcomed the news that he no longer had competition for playing time.
“It’s good to get an idea that you’re going to play a lot, hopefully every day. I’m just happy to be here,” Iglesias said. “I’ve always been a confident guy and tried to stay positive as much as possible and it’s been very good for me so far.
“It’s good to have an opportunity to play every single day. It kind of surprised me. I never thought about playing third in my life and now, I’m getting a chance to play here.”
The Red Sox had a scare in the seventh inning when Victorino lost his footing on the warning track chasing a fly ball and crashed into the wall. His head struck a bolt and he came away a bit shaken up.
Victorino left Sunday’s game in Detroit after smacking into a wall at Comerica Park. It has happened several times this season.
“Another wall, another day,” Farrell said. “It’s not that he suffered a gash but it hit him a tough spot right above the ear. He’s finds a wall on a daily basis.”
Victorino stayed in the game. He’s from Hawaii but he plays like a hockey player.