Clay Buchholz Gives Red Sox Another Reason to Be Optimistic Despite Suffering First Loss

Clay BuchholzBOSTON — In two weeks, there will be no room for moral victories. Until then, it’s fair game for the Red Sox to draw positives from losses.

The Red Sox dropped a 4-2 decision to the Blue Jays in the middle game of the teams’ three-game set at Fenway Park on Saturday. Clay Buchholz suffered his first loss of 2013, and Mark Buehrle minimized Boston’s chances during his six innings of work. It wasn’t the Red Sox’ best game.

But even in defeat, the Red Sox should be encouraged about the effort from Buchholz, who was making his third start since returning from the disabled list. Buchholz was much better than the box score indicates, and it’s clear that the right-hander doesn’t have any physical limitations whatsoever.

“Yeah, he has and actually he was fighting to go back out for the seventh tonight,” manager John Farrell said when asked if Buchholz has answered questions about his ability to work deep into games. “But given the progression that we’re on, I think that was a comfortable number of pitches thrown tonight. He still feels good physically. He felt like he could continue on tonight. So as far as Clay’s concerned, the stuff that he had, the endurance that he showed, a positive night for him.”

Buchholz threw 106 pitches in six innings of work. He gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits, struck out two and walked two. It wasn’t a vintage Buchholz performance by any stretch, but he retired the first nine hitters he faced and looked in control until some spotty defense in the fourth inning did him in.

Buchholz had two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning after Jose Reyes got caught stealing and Munenori Kawasaki lined out to second base. Brett Lawrie hit a ground ball to the left side that should have ended the inning, but Xander Bogaerts double-pumped before delivering his throw to first base. That allowed Lawrie to reach with a two-out infield single. Adam Lind followed with a fly ball to deep center field, and Shane Victorino took a shaky route to it. The ball touched down on the warning track, resulting in an RBI double.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the fourth. Rajai Davis blooped an RBI single into left-center field, and Buchholz fired an errant pickoff attempt to first base with Anthony Gose batting that scored Moises Sierra, who had singled. It was an ugly frame for Buchholz, and it disrupted what had been an otherwise smooth outing.

“I thought he was more crisp than his last time out against New York,” Farrell said after Saturday’s game. “He had a little bit better arm strength [and] a bit more consistent power to his fastball. I thought the fourth inning defensively we probably contributed, including Clay’s errant pickoff attempt, to the three runs in that inning. … I thought Clay was still pretty sharp and pretty crisp for the time that he was on the mound tonight.”

Buchholz will have to be even better when the calendar flips to October. Right now, there’s nothing to suggest that he can’t be and won’t be when the time comes.

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

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