Clay Buchholz Needs to Play Role of Stopper, Help Red Sox ‘Turn the Page’ on Rough Patch

Clay BuchholzThe expression “turn the page” is cliché, boring, annoying and very much applicable to the Red Sox.

Boston dropped all three games of its weekend series in Texas, and the club will now return to the friendly confines of Fenway Park in a much different state than when it left. Fortunately for the Sox, they’ll have this season’s best pitcher on the bump when they open up a seven-game homestand and try to effectively “turn the page” on what has been the season’s first real rough patch.

Clay Buchholz will be the man asked to shift momentum back in Boston’s favor. And while Monday’s game against the Twins hardly qualifies as a must-win, it could be a statement start for Buchholz.

Buchholz’s outing on Monday was going to be interesting regardless of Sunday’s result. The pitcher found himself in the middle of quite the controversy following Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays, as Toronto broadcaster Dirk Hayhurst accused the right-hander of using a foreign substance located on his forearm to doctor the baseball. Buchholz and the Red Sox handled the situation perfectly, but the allegations led to a media firestorm, with everyone trying to determine whether there was any validity to what, on the surface, seemed like outrageous claims.

Now, with the Red Sox reeling a bit after a season-high three straight losses, Buchholz’s start will have meaning beyond proving that he isn’t mentally rattled.

Buchholz will be asked to play the role of stopper. He was the American League Pitcher of the Month for April, and he has been absolutely lights out in his first six starts, but a good performance on Monday would truly be a testament to how much he has matured as a pitcher over the past year. A rough outing could cause the Red Sox’ current issues, which are still minor in the grand scheme of things, to linger.

The Twins are a good opponent for a team looking to bounce back from a weekend hiccup, and the idea of returning home after a 2-4 road trip sounds pretty enticing as well, but there are a lot of variables involved when talking about the Red Sox’ sweep at the hands of the Rangers.

Sunday marked the first time all season that the Red Sox failed to win a game in which they scored first. They had been 13-0 when striking first, and with the loss, the Yankees are now the only team without a loss when scoring first (12-0).

The Red Sox also have some guys struggling, most notably Will Middlebrooks, who was held out of the starting lineup on Sunday. Dustin Pedroia has been mired in a mini slump and Mike Napoli failed to produce against his former team. On the pitching side of the fence,  Felix Doubront’s velocity has become a concern, the Red Sox have lost two straight Jon Lester starts and Andrew Bailey’s health status remains up in the air.

These are all things that could blow over rather quickly, and even mentioning them requires a little bit of nitpicking, since we are, after all, talking about a team that’s 20-11. The Red Sox could really use a good homestand to ensure nothing snowballs out of control, though, and that effort begins with Buchholz’s start on Monday.

Whether it’s “turning the page” on the Buchholz controversy or “turning the page” on a horrendous series in Arlington, it’s fairly obvious the Red Sox have themselves a theme for Monday night.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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