Clay Buchholz is expected to take the mound in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday. What happens from there is anyone’s guess.
Buchholz on Saturday reiterated that he will indeed start Game 4, while also noting that he’s not 100 percent. Buchholz, who missed three months of the season with a shoulder issue, said that he’s been receiving treatment since his last start against the Tigers on Oct. 19, but that he plans to compete for as long as he can against the Cardinals.
“My one thing that I have is to go and compete. Go out there for as long as John [Farrell] wants to leave me out there, and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability,” Buchholz said. “Obviously, given the couple of days that I’ve been out so far, not 100 percent. But I’ve said it a couple of times this year, I don’t think anybody, especially at this time of the season, is 100 percent. It’s going to be my first World Series experience being on the field, and I think that just the environment, the crowd, the adrenaline, that’s going to help me out, too.”
Buchholz has made three starts this postseason. He owns a 5.40 ERA (10 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings) and hasn’t factored in any of the decisions. Buchholz started out strong in each start before hitting a wall around the fifth inning, and in each instance, his diminished stuff as his pitch count rose coincided with a dip in velocity.
“Going into [Game 4], there will be at least a thought of a game time or a range of pitches. It’s kind of an estimation. It’s not something exact,” Farrell said Saturday. “No different than heading into [Game 3] with [Jake] Peavy on the mound. You go in and pay close attention to every pitch that’s thrown, look at how they’re maintaining their arm strength or overall stuff and you adjust accordingly.
“While you’re more in tune with the recent starts of a pitcher, you stay in touch with that and begin to maybe think ahead of time and getting guys prepared, if you’ve got a guy coming in behind him. But I can’t say it’s a completely different approach than if we were back in April or May.”
Buchholz was lights-out back in April and May. He started the season 11-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his first 14 starts before landing on the disabled list with shoulder problems. Buchholz eventually returned to big league action on Sept. 10 but hasn’t quite been the same dominant pitcher that he was for the first two and a half months of the year.
“We go into [Game 4] thinking that he’s going to give us what he’s been in the postseason,” Farrell said. “That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we’ve seen back in April and May, but he’s also been very effective, and we’re fully anticipating that to be the case tomorrow.”
Saturday marked the first time that Buchholz had thrown off a mound since his last start in Game 6 of the ALCS. He noted that there was some rust, although he also viewed his work in the bullpen as a step in the right direction.
“I’m sure there’s going to be people talking to me each time I leave the field [Sunday],” Buchholz said. “Being at this level, especially on this stage, it’s tough to take yourself out of a game. I’ve never done that before. But with this scenario that’s going on right now, I’m going to tell them the truth. It’s not going to be one of times where you might be feeling tired, but still telling everybody that you’re good to go. Like I said, I’m going to compete and give my team the best chance of winning that I can, and if something does come up that I’m feeling a little run down, then, yeah, that’s something that I’ll let them know.”
Buchholz said that he felt some tightness in his last start — whether it be because of fatigue or something else — and that he never really got loose. Having experienced health issues before, the 29-year-old is doing whatever he can to get ready both mentally and physically before Game 4 in St. Louis.
“The last time I got hurt [in June] I threw one pitch, and it’s like, OK, I don’t think I should throw another pitch. This time I went three‑plus innings with tightness. That’s how I’m staying stable as far as mentally,” Buchholz said. “But I think giving the team a chance to win, that’s my goal. And to trust your pitches and to throw them to the best of your ability, that’s what I’ve worked up to up to this point, and that’s where I’m at.”
Buchholz will carry plenty of pressure and a whole bunch of questions to the mound in Game 4. Everything will be forgotten with a strong effort in what is in all likelihood his final start of 2013.