Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz each turned in gems Sunday as Boston claimed both ends of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, extending the Rays’ losing streak to 11 games. Lester allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings for his fifth victory in a row and is now 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 149/39 K/BB ratio in 129.1 innings since a loss on May 26 dropped him to 3-5 with a 6.07 ERA.
Buchholz hasn’t been nearly that dominant, but seven innings of one-run ball Sunday gives him seven Quality Starts in eight outings. He’s now 5-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 71 innings overall this year, although a 49/30 K/BB ratio isn’t particularly good. With two wins Sunday afternoon the Red Sox widened their Wild Card lead to 3.5 games over the Rangers, putting their odds of making the playoffs at around 85-90 percent.
While the Red Sox prepare to welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to the rotation later this week, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Sunday also saw the Phillies take both ends of a doubleheader from the Mets, with each game offering some intrigue. Game 1 had Brad Lidge back at closer just three days after he was officially stripped of ninth-inning duties. A three-run lead gave him plenty of leeway and he needed it, giving up two runs before escaping with his 29th save in an outing that certainly shouldn’t help him reclaim the full-time gig.
Game 2 featured Pedro Martinez turning back the clock with eight shutout innings, at which point Ryan Madson got the nod to close out a 1-0 win. Charlie Manuel clearly couldn’t be sure things would work out that way, but Lidge taking the easy saves and Madson taking the tough saves makes some sense. Martinez tossed 130 pitches for his biggest workload since way back in 2001 and is now 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA. Wow.
* Alfonso Soriano is officially done for the season after the Cubs announced Sunday that he’ll undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this week. Soriano finishes the year at .241/.303/.423 with 20 homers, 55 RBIs, 64 runs, and nine steals in 117 games, all of which represent career-worst totals except for his 18 homers as a rookie in 2001. The surgery is considered minor, but Soriano is still a big question mark for 2010.
* After missing his last start because of back spasms, Tim Lincecum threw a bullpen session Saturday and reported no problems, clearing the way for him to take the hill Monday night against the Rockies. Lincecum hasn’t been great versus Colorado for his career, but shut out the Rockies for eight innings on August and obviously should be in all fantasy lineups for this week.
AL Quick Hits: Michael Young (hamstring) is hoping to rejoin the lineup Friday, which means that he’ll probably return before Josh Hamilton (back) … CC Sabathia picked up his AL-best 17th win Sunday despite walking four versus just one strikeout … Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday and is now one RBI short of his career-high of 85 … Jake Peavy (elbow) was encouraging by a bullpen session Sunday and may finally join the White Sox’s rotation this week … Brian Bannister has been told to take the rest of the season off after getting a second opinion on his fatigued arm … Brian Duensing tossed seven shutout innings Sunday and has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his starts … Dustin Pedroia had an opposite-field homer at Fenway Park for the first time in his career Sunday … Kyle Davis threw six shutout innings Sunday despite six free passes and as many balls as strikes … Justin Morneau was absent from Sunday’s lineup with back and wrist soreness.
NL Quick Hits: Chris Carpenter had a rare ugly outing Sunday, giving up seven runs in six innings for his fourth loss … Randy Wolf (elbow) had a bullpen session Sunday and is now slated to start Tuesday … Ian Desmond collected two more hits Sunday while starting at second base for the first time since high school … Chad Billingsley was pulled after just four innings and 71 pitches Sunday, allowing three runs … Brad Penny tossed seven innings of two-run ball Sunday, making him 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA since returning to the NL … J.A. Happ (oblique) will throw a bullpen session Monday in the hopes of avoiding a third straight missed start … Javier Vazquez allowed two runs in a complete-game win Sunday after taking a shutout into the ninth … Ted Lilly cut his ERA to a career-best 3.05 with six scoreless innings Sunday … Pittsburgh is shutting Ross Ohlendorf down for the season after logging 30 innings more than his previous career-high.