Mother Nature was the star of Sunday’s series finale. Clay Buchholz was a close second.
Buchholz didn’t show any ill effects of the AC joint issue that forced him to skip a start, and he was dominant before downpours ended Sunday’s game prematurely in the sixth inning. The right-hander tossed five shutout innings to help give the Red Sox a 3-0, rain-shortened victory.
Buchholz’s short but sweet outing put the finishing touches on what was an overall gritty weekend for the Red Sox. Boston started the series off on the wrong foot by failing to generate any offense against CC Sabathia and Co. on Friday, but the last two games — or one game and change, to be exact — went a long way toward showing that the Red Sox are still the class of the American League East.
It wasn’t just about the end result on Saturday and Sunday, although two wins are two wins, no matter how you slice it. It was the manner in which the Sox emerged victorious.
Friday was a deflating day for the Red Sox. The news of Jacoby Ellsbury’s injury coupled with Jon Lester’s third straight subpar outing and Boston’s anemic offense made for a major letdown after the Red Sox blew the doors off the Phillies in Philadelphia on Thursday. The club needed a pick-me-up, and Saturday’s offensive outburst provided just that.
The Red Sox scored 11 runs and banged out 18 hits en route to a convincing victory against Phil Hughes and the Yankees. The Sox received contributions from all over, and even Felix Doubront, who went six strong innings, was a bright spot.
Pitching wasn’t necessarily the name of the game for Boston on Saturday, though, as it was the offense that stole the show. On Sunday, however, Buchholz’s outing, albeit short, was impossible to overlook.
The right-hander issued a one-out walk to Robinson Cano in the first inning, but he pounded the strike zone for the rest of the evening. Following the free pass to Cano, Buchholz didn’t go to any three-ball counts, and he was in complete control, allowing just two singles the rest of the way. His fastball was excellent, his cutter was nearly unhittable and his offspeed stuff kept the Yankees’ hitters on edge.
The biggest takeaway from Buchholz’s start beyond his command was the poise he showed. Buchholz was not only making his first start since May 22, but he was also forced to wait around as the game’s first pitch was delayed nearly 45 minutes. Such a delay can obviously work against both starters, but since Buchholz skipped his last start, he sounded like a guy who was anxious to get back on the mound. It was encouraging to see him keep his emotions in check, especially after the first-inning walk.
Even more impressive was Buchholz’s response to being thrown right into the fire. Pitching in the Bronx is never easy, particularly when you’re going toe-to-toe with Hiroki Kuroda, who has been the Yankees’ best starter this season.
All in all, the Red Sox should be pleased with their weekend series against the Yankees. Things could have snowballed after Friday’s tough defeat, but that all-too-familiar resilience kicked in again, and they’re still atop the AL East as a result.