BOSTON — Clay Buchholz walked up to the tee box at the first hole and completely shanked his opening drive. The Milwaukee Brewers weren’t going to offer a mulligan.
Buchholz was uncharacteristically ineffective for the Red Sox on Saturday in his 2014 season debut. The right-hander frequently mislocated with pitches — generally up in the strike zone — and the Brewers knocked him around for 4 1/3 innings before finally taking down the Red Sox, 7-6, in 11 innings.
“Uncharacteristic,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Buchholz’s outing. “Even on days when he hasn’t had his best stuff, there’s always been the ability to manipulate the baseball and move the ball off the bat head. But to their credit, (the Brewers) didn’t miss many pitches up.”
Buchholz gave up six earned runs on a career-high 13 hits Saturday. He surrendered two home runs and threw 72 pitches (54 strikes) before Farrell turned to his bullpen with one out in the fifth inning. It was a terrible start for Buchholz, who appeared to have a productive spring training in terms of getting ready for the regular season, and it’s obviously something the veteran will need to quickly forget before facing the New York Yankees in his second start of the year.
“I missed with a lot pitches and when I did they seemed to put the barrel on it and find some holes,” Buchholz said. “Obviously, the couple of home runs they hit were pitches not where they were supposed to be. Just a lot of mistakes that they found holes for.”
It was surprising to see Buchholz — who sat around 89-91 mph with his fastball for much of his outing — surrender so many hits. He didn’t allow more than eight hits in any start last season, and he never allowed more than seven hits in any game at Fenway Park until Saturday.
“You don’t want to give up that many hits ever,” Buchholz said. “But they were swinging early and that’s what I want teams to do. I want them to swing, I want them to put balls in play. I have to do a better job of limiting that and obviously putting pitches where I want to. I wasn’t able to do that at all tonight, really. That’s the way the game goes sometimes. I have to figure it out before the next time out.”
The Red Sox had a chance to win Saturday’s game despite Buchholz’s rocky season debut. That typically won’t be the case following such poor starts, though, so it’s important for him to immediately turn the page.
Buchholz couldn’t take a mulligan Saturday, but he has plenty of holes to figure things out.