BOSTON -- For Rubby De La Rosa, his first start with the Red Sox was a gem.
The righty fired seven shutout innings, walking none and striking out eight to lead Boston to a 7-1 victory over the Rays on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
It was an overpowering performance, one in which just two of the 21 outs the righty recorded made it out of the infield.
"He was great," said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "Obviously, you saw the results, but you're talking about a guy who can throw 98, 99 [mph], and throw the changeup he was throwing along with the slider. And he was throwing it over the plate. He threw three pitches for strikes at any time. And the way his ball moves and the way he's able to do that, heck, he could be real successful if he can throw it over the plate like that every time."
This was the De La Rosa who drew rave reviews as he climbed up the Dodgers' farm system. And the De La Rosa the Red Sox were so excited about acquiring in the blockbuster deal with Los Angeles on Aug. 25, 2012.
"I know I've heard whispers about how good this kid can be and I saw little glimpses of it in Spring Training," said Pierzynski. "But to actually see him do it on this stage, in this situation, especially after [Friday] night and all that went down, was impressive, and hopefully he learns from it, gains confidence and builds on it."
De La Rosa was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the rotation spot vacated by the struggling and injured Clay Buchholz, who is on the disabled list.
"He was outstanding," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The biggest difference from a year ago to what we saw tonight was just an outstanding changeup. A number of swing and miss [pitches]. Very good fastball. A lot of strikes. But the changeup was really the separator for him tonight."
After losing 10 games in a row, the Red Sox have won their last six. Young players have been key to the turnaround, continuing with De La Rosa in this one.
"I feel strong. I feel like everything I did in the past is working right now," De La Rosa said.
Brock Holt belted his first career in homer in this one, while Jackie Bradley Jr. ripped his first of the season.
"Prospects are like gold now," said Pierzynski. "You guys [in the media] love to talk about prospects. But at some point, they've got to come up to the big leagues and become suspects. At some point, you've got to throw them into the fire and see what happens. It's a great learning experience. Some guys have to go up and down. Not everyone gets it their first time.
"It's a learning experience every time you go out there, and I think I see a lot of guys in this organization we've called up, whether it's Holt, whether it's Rubby, whether it's [Brandon Workman], whoever it is has seemed to learn and they want to get better, which is the biggest key."
Jonathan Herrera, who was in the middle of everything Saturday, got things started for the Red Sox in the third with a leadoff single. Holt followed by crushing a two-run shot into the Boston bullpen in right-center.
He left Fenway Park with a souvenir.
"I've got the ball," said Holt. "It's in my backpack right now. They gave it to me, so I'm going to go ahead and take that one home with me. I'll probably just put it on a mantle somewhere, probably write 'first home run' on it or something."
Holt has been marvelous of late, turning in a 2-for-5 performance to boost his average to .305.
Xander Bogaerts kept the rally alive with a walk. Pierzynski ripped a single up the middle. Bogaerts moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Carp to make it 3-0.
With some run support at his back, De La Rosa attacked the strike zone.
"We're not swinging the bats great, but their guy was outstanding," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "You have to give him a lot of credit. A high-velocity fastball with a Bugs Bunny changeup. Great command of everything. He was outstanding."
The Red Sox rallied again off Jake Odorizzi in the fourth. Grady Sizemore started it with a single and stole second. After moving to third on a fielder's choice, Sizemore scored on a perfectly executed safety squeeze by Herrera. Pierzynski continued his hot hitting with an RBI single to make it 5-0.
Pierzynski is in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak during which he's hit .409.
"I just feel normal," said Pierzynski. "I just feel like I'm hitting the way I should hit. I haven't changed anything. I haven't done anything differently. I'm just trying to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it. Nothing changed. I haven't changed anything. I just go out there and try to get better pitches to hit."
Bradley made it a 7-0 game by hammering a two-run homer to right in the bottom of the fifth.
In the eighth, Bradley almost made a tremendous catch against the scoreboard in left-center on a drive by Kevin Kiermaier. But as he jumped as high as he could and had full extension with his glove, the ball struck Bradley in the nose.
Kiermaier roared around the bases for an inside-the-park homer. Bradley got his nose taped up by the trainers, but stayed in the game.
"Off the bat, I felt like I knew I had it," said Bradley. "I was trying to time it up. I think it just got over my glove, by that time it was already ricocheting back. I wish I could've kept zeros on the board for them."