On Saturday, Buchholz will be asked once again to breath life into his team’s playoff hopes.
He has proven himself time and time again this season, but to be considered a true ace, he will have to perform above the lofty bar he set for himself down the stretch, especially in head-to-head meetings against the Yankees and Rays.
Buchholz is 1-1 this season against the Rays with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work, but anyone who knows the game could tell you those numbers count for nothing.
Numbers aside, Buchholz is pitching the best baseball of his major league career, and is dominating in the only stat that really matters — wins.
Since taking a loss at Oakland on July 21, Buchholz is unbeaten in six consecutive starts (5-0) and has collected a win in his previous four outings. If not for a Jonathan Papelbon blown save on Aug. 1 against Detroit (after Buchholz’s eight-inning effort), Buchholz would be working on six straight wins.
All the while, Buchholz has lowered his ERA from 2.71 after the loss in Oakland to an American League-leading 2.26.
But all Buchholz’s strong outings and staggering statistics mean is that the Boston organization, his teammates and fans can have great confidence when he takes the hill for what will be, to date, the biggest start of the season.
The magazines, baseball journals and newspapers will tell you the old Clay Buchholz is gone. The lanky, timid, kid who often looked as though he would never live up to the great hype and promise that had scouts thinking “Cy Young Award potential” is now a dependable and solid arm attached to a poised and confident young man.
Buchholz is very much a part of the Cy Young debate, and if he can deliver for his team down the stretch, the votes will take care of themselves. Certainly, awards won’t be on the mind of Boston’s emerging 26-year old ace when he takes the ball at Tropicana Field on Saturday night.
After all, this is the new Clay Buchholz, who continues to prove that he is the real Clay Buchholz.
To make a name for yourself in the majors, you have to prove yourself every start, and Buchholz is learning just that. In a season where he has had to be the lynchpin to an ailing Red Sox club, Buchholz is again going to be asked to prove that he has arrived for good.
And again, Boston is counting on Buchholz to deliver to keep their playoff pulse alive and well. Only this year, they are counting with confidence.