Five Sox homers back Tavarez's gem
Righty stymies Braves; Papi, Manny go deep in blowout
ATLANTA -- A batting barrage and a pitching masterpiece. It isn't often that a team can combine both of those forces in one night, but the Red Sox had all of that going for them and more in Wednesday's 11-0 romp over the Braves.
Before Julian Tavarez had even thrown his first pitch, the Sox had staked him to a 5-0 lead, led by a leadoff homer by J.D. Drew and a three-run blast from Coco Crisp.
The Boston bashers, as it would be apt to call them on this night, unloaded for five home runs. Drew and Crisp would later be joined by David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and substitute Eric Hinske in the long-distance club.
And as the night wore on, it became obvious the Red Sox didn't need to expend so much energy with their bats. For Tavarez breezed through the Atlanta lineup with ease.
Perhaps that's because Tavarez, who has looked like anything but a No. 5 starter of late, made a conscious effort to keep his eyes off the scoreboard.
"I didn't see it was 5-0 until I got to hit," said Tavarez. "To me, the game was nothing-nothing in the first inning. Once I got to hit, I knew it was 5-0. To me, the game was nothing-nothing until the last hitter that I faced."
The rubber-armed righty turned in his best performance of the year, facing the minimum 18 hitters over the first six innings. Tavarez did give up two hits over that span, both of which were immediately erased on double play balls. In seven innings, Tavarez allowed three hits, struck out four and walked just one.
He improved to 5-4 and lowered his ERA to 4.50, the best it's been all year.
"That was my best start," said Tavarez. "I had a good outing against Detroit, but I walked a few guys. Today, everything went right from me."
It was a theme that prevailed all across the Boston dugout. Well, aside from Julio Lugo, who worked five good at-bats and had an 0-for-5 to show for it, as his average dipped to .201.
But, as manager Terry Francona noted later, Lugo was still able to smile. That's what happens when a team is winning. With the win, the 46-25 Red Sox opened up a 10-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
Following Tuesday night's 4-0 victory, Wednesday's whitewash marked Boston's first back-to-back shutouts since July 18-19, 2006, against Kansas City.
If Francona wanted to create a blue-print for a perfectly stress-free night, the script probably would have looked a lot like what actually took place.
What did the manager appreciate most: The offense or the pitching?
"We'll take both," Francona said. "We score early. Took some good swings. And then Julian went out and did what he's supposed to. And I thought his stuff was good. We played very good defense."
The Red Sox could tell it was going to be their night very early on. Just four pitches in, Drew put one over the wall in right. Dustin Pedroia roped a double down the line. With one out, Manny Ramirez smacked an RBI double.
With two outs and runners at second and third, Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to intentionally walk Jason Varitek and face Crisp. Cox was burnt, as Crisp put the 0-1 pitch out of the yard in right for a devastating three-run blow. It was Crisp's third home run of the series, astounding when you consider he had just one all year when the Red Sox arrived here.
"Big for us," said Francona. "It's 2-0 and he hit an offspeed pitch. He took a good swing. Three-run homers, they're nice. Anyone that hits them, they're good."
Instead of settling down in his second inning of work, Braves right-hander Buddy Carlyle put himself right into another mess. Drew led off with a double to right and Ortiz launched a towering two-run homer to right.
"Buddy just wasn't on top of his game tonight," said Cox. "Too many pitches in the hot zone, as we say. Boston, they're not the bashers for nothing. They all can hit up and down that lineup."
And once Carlyle left, it didn't seem to matter who was pitching for the Braves. The Boston bats were in full furnace mode.
Ramirez took his turn at long ball in the seventh, clubbing a solo shot to right against Peter Moylan. It was Hinske's turn in the eighth, and he produced a no-doubter to right, a two-run shot that completed Boston's scoring.
Drew left the game in the bottom of the second after feeling some tightness in his right quad. But it was simply a precautionary move designed to keep Drew in place to roam the cavernous outfield of PETCO Park this weekend.
Meanwhile, this one was a pure walk in the park for Tavarez.
"You have to be aggressive and challenge the hitters," Tavarez said. "I was working fast. Once I got a guy on base, I'd slow down the game and make a quality pitch."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.