ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The in-game reviews followed a similar theme.
“A little nervous."
“So far, so good."
“Relaxing into it."
“Just had to find his rhythm."
“Got over his initial jitters and is doing a great job."
No, those were tweeters commenting on the broadcasting debut of former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe, who served as color commentator on NESN’s telecast of the Rays-Red Sox game Tuesday night.
Lowe had a few more rough spots in the booth than Buchholz had on the mound, where he returned after a 94-day absence with a flourish, pitching five scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over the reeling Tampa Bay Rays.
Buchholz allowed only three singles and a walk and struck out six while throwing 74 pitches, near the limit manager John Farrell had projected for him before the game.
His fastball topped out at 93, he got swings and misses on both his changeup and curve, and looked very much at home while dueling Rays ace David Price, who threw a career-high 127 pitches in a vain bid to win a game the Rays needed to keep alive any hope of catching the Sox in the division race.
The Rays still are holding on to the second wild-card spot and didn’t lose any ground to their closest pursuers, the Orioles and Indians, who both lost to remain 1 ½ games behind Tampa Bay, with the Yankees closing to within two games.
Price was brilliant, allowing just three hits, walking no one and striking out nine. He set down the first 12 in order until Mike Napoli doubled off the glove of leaping center fielder Desmond Jennings at the wall to open the fifth. Jonny Gomes, who has remained close friends with Price since their days of playing together, then bounced a single up the middle, Napoli beating a dreadful throw from Jennings to score.
The hit was Gomes’ first in 10 at-bats against Price this season. He took second on the throw, went to third on a bunt by Daniel Nava and scored on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s deep drive to center, this time Jennings coming down with the ball after his leap at the wall.
Farrell went to the bullpen again, summoning Koji Uehara, who retired Wil Myers on a foul pop to first to end the inning, then carved up the Rays in the ninth, striking out Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce to end it.
Uehara’s scoreless streak is now 28 1/3 innings. Buchholz, meanwhile, is now 10-0, with a 1.61 ERA.
And the Sox's magic number is 10 to win the AL East for their first division title since 2007, which is also the last time they won the World Series. With 16 games to play, they’re 30 games over .500, and their lead over the Rays is back to 8 ½ games -- and ’07 is the only other season since 1995 that the Sox have had that big of a lead.
On Aug. 24, the Rays were percentage points ahead of the Sox. Since then, they are a major league-worst 4-12, while the Sox are a big league-best 12-3.