Clay Buchholz was almost unhittable on Sunday.
Check that. Clay Buchholz has been almost unhittable this season.
Buchholz put hearts in throats on Sunday when he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of what was eventually a 5-0 Red Sox win. The bid for a no-no was broken up when Kelly Johnson led off the eighth with a broken-bat single into right field, but it hardly takes away from the stellar performance Buchholz turned in for the Sox.
“I felt pretty relaxed,” Buchholz said after Sunday’s win. “It’s an easy clubhouse to be relaxed in. There’s a bunch of different personalities so I think everybody gels really well. I didn’t feel much different than any other day.”
The reason Buchholz might not have felt much different is because dominance is quickly becoming the norm. The right-hander improved to 3-0 with Sunday’s win, and his ERA sits at a sparkling 0.41. He’s the first Red Sox pitcher to hold opponents to one run or fewer over at least seven innings in each of his first three outings since Pedro Martinez’s first three games as a member of the Red Sox in 1998. (Not bad company.)
The scary part? Buchholz still sees room for improvement.
“The frustrating part about it is the walks, because I felt that way throughout the whole game, being able to throw fastball, both sides of the plate, cutter, both sides of the plate, and curveball, both sides of the plate, for most of the day,” Buchholz said while assessing his outing. “A couple of the walks, four-pitch walk, that’s what eats at me. I don’t really like doing that, but for the most part, it’s fun to go out there and pitch when you have all of your pitches working. It doesn’t happen every day. Probably five times a season it happens for a starting pitcher, so it was definitely a fun day to be out there.”
If a starter brings ace-like stuff to the mound five times a season, Buchholz better slow down, because he’s been fantastic in all three of his starts, especially the last two. Buchholz has allowed just one earned run in 22 innings – a home run to Travis Hafner in his first start against the Yankees – and he’s racking up a surprisingly high strikeout total. The righty fanned a career-high 11 hitters on Sunday.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Buchholz dominate. While he started and ended slow last season, there was a two- to three-month stretch where he looked every bit like a front-end starter. In his last 23 starts dating back to May 27 of last year, Buchholz owns a 3.00 ERA, and that mark continues to decrease.
Sure, Buchholz would have liked to have capped off his day on Sunday with the second no-hitter of his still-young career, but the right-hander has learned to appreciate solid outings in general – whether they come from him or one of his teammates.
“Yeah, from anybody. I always tell people when they ask me about the no-hitter and everything, I tell them that I’ve been trying to do it again since that day and it hasn’t happened,” Buchholz said. “That shows you how far luck goes with being able to go out there and throw a game like that. It’s not always the pitcher. It’s your defense behind you who made some great plays today. And the offense has to score you runs too.”
Luck, huh? Well, with Buchholz stringing together multiple dominant outings in a row, it’s hard to chalk up his success simply as luck. The Red Sox are certainly lucky to have him, though.