For a second straight night, a freak ding-up at the plate forced Red Sox manager John Farrell to pull slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
In the seventh inning of the Red Sox’ 9-4 victory over the Astros Thursday, Cespedes fouled a first-pitch fastball from Mike Foltynewicz off his left shin.
Although Cespedes was walking gingerly, he remained in the game for another at-bat, in the eighth, before being replaced by Daniel Nava in left field.
“I’m sure he’s got a bruise in there,” Farrell said. “Didn’t want to come out of the game, but after the last at-bat, just got him off his feet. We expect him to be ready to go [Friday], but we’ll check him when he comes in.”
The right hand contusion that forced Cespedes to leave Wednesday’s win over the Reds in the seventh inning wasn’t serious enough to keep him out of Thursday’s lineup.
The slugger hit cleanup and played left field for his 11th straight start since coming to Boston in the trade deadline deal for ace Jon Lester.
“Honestly, he could have continued on [Wednesday], but precautionary,” Farrell said. “Just got him out of there and we don’t anticipate any issues as he goes through BP today, so he’s back in there.
Cespedes (0 for 5) went hitless for just the second time since coming to the Sox, and he’s has been a presence in the middle of the lineup.
But his clutch hitting is what has struck Farrell.
Cespedes’s three-run, eighth-inning homer on Sunday led the Sox to a 3-1 win over the Angels, and two days later he took Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton deep to center field for a two-run homer that decided a 3-2 win. It was the first time a Sox player hit game-deciding home runs in the eighth inning or later of back-to-back games since 1992.
“He’s gotten some home runs in timely moments,” Farrell said.
Since coming off the disabled list in June, Clay Buchholz’s starts have been a box of chocolates. He’s given up at least four earned runs in six of his nine starts. He weaved a complete-game, 12-strikeout gem against the same Astros team he’ll face on Friday.
He gave up seven runs in five innings two weeks ago against the Yankees, and followed it up last week by allowing just three runs in eight innings against the Angels.
If there’s something that separates the good starts from the bad ones, Farrell said, it is the confidence Buchholz showed in his fastball. He threw it 36 times (20 for strikes) against the Angels and was able to play his breaking pitches off of it.
Still, with a 3-6 record and 5.13 ERA since returning from the hyperextended left knee that sidelined him for 28 games, the question is, what will it take for Buchholz to find some consistency?
“I think a lot has to do with the level of confidence in the moment,” Farrell said.
General manager Ben Cherington made it clear at the non-waiver trade deadline that he felt there would be more quality pitchers on the free agent market this coming offseason than quality hitters.
With that, Farrell said that while experience doesn’t necessarily trump talent, there’s value in adding a veteran to front the Sox’ young pitching staff.
“I think it’s helpful,” Farrell said. “To say that it’s a must, that’s probably debatable. We’ll see what’s available as we get into the offseason on the ability to add that component to our rotation.”
Between Brandon Workman (26), Rubby De La Rosa (25), Joe Kelly (26), and Allen Webster (24), four-fifths of the rotation is 26 or younger. Buchholz turned 30 on Thursday.
“Experience is one thing, but talent is clearly the most important, and we feel like we’ve got talent in this rotation as it stands and I know that Ben will continue to do whatever he can to improve the team in every area and that includes the rotation,” said Farrell.
Allen Craig took batting practice Thursday and Farrell said he’ll judge the right fielder’s progress over the next few days to determine when he could being a rehab assignment.
Craig, who came to Boston at the trade deadline from St. Louis, was three at-bats into his Red Sox career before spraining his left foot trying to beat out a throw to first base. He went on the disabled list Aug. 5 (retroactive to Aug. 2) and has missed 11 games.
Farrell said he was hopeful that catcher David Ross could follow the same recovery path as Craig. Ross went on the DL Aug. 2 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Farrell said he would like to have Ross catch some bullpen sessions before going on a rehab assignment.
“Both guys are advancing gradually,” Farrell said.
Getting to work
Anthony Ranaudo was sent down to Triple A Pawtucket and righthanded reliever Alex Wilson was recalled, giving the Sox seven arms out of the bullpen. Wilson pitched a scoreless seventh. The move also means Workman will take his next turn in the rotation after being skipped on Wednesday following a one-batter appearance in the 19th inning last Saturday against the Angels. Workman is in line to pitch on Monday against the Angels again . . . The offdays that were few and far between for Xander Bogaerts in the first half of the season are coming more frequently down the stretch. The shortstop sat Thursday for the fifth time in the last two months, getting a rest after starting 14 straight games. In his last 11 games, Bogaerts is hitting just .140 with 12 strikeouts . . . Dustin Pedroia’s 3-for-5 night gave him 39 multihit games this season. It was the 10th time this season Pedroia’s gone for at least three hits and his first since July 6 against the Orioles, when he went 3 for 6. Pedroia’s hitting .379 (22 for 58) in his past 14 games.