BOSTON — Clay Buchholz’s starts are beginning to look like extended versions of batting practice.
Buchholz surrendered nine hits, including two home runs, over 4 2/3 innings Wednesday as the Toronto Blue Jays downed the Boston Red Sox 6-4 at Fenway Park. It marked yet another poor performance for Buchholz, who insists he’s 100 percent healthy despite his underwhelming results this season.
“I felt like I had the best stuff in this start velocity-wise that I’ve had all year,” Buchholz said after Wednesday’s loss. “There’s absolutely nothing physically bothering me. It’s tough to go out there and when you miss with one pitch, it gets you every time. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
Buchholz’s 2014 woes are difficult to comprehend, particularly given his clean bill of health. The right-hander simply isn’t hitting his spots, and opponents are making him pay for his mistakes.
“Tonight, I thought really in the second and the third inning he was rushing,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday. “His body was ahead of the arm. It didn’t catch up. And that’s where you saw a number of pitches up in the strike zone. When he did get the ball down, it found its way to the middle of the plate. At this point to me, (the problem) looks mechanical in nature.”
Buchholz said his arm strength felt good Wednesday, and it was evident in his fastball velocity, which sat at around 92-93 mph. But Buchholz hasn’t featured his changeup much of late — cutting out a huge aspect of the pitcher’s arsenal — and his secondary stuff hasn’t had the same finish we’ve seen in years past.
“Obviously, I’m trying. I’m not going out there trying to give up home runs to every guy that walks up to the plate,” Buchholz said. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to grind through it. It’s like a batter going 0-for-15 and at some time they break out of it. That’s what I’m hoping right now.”
It’s now back to the drawing board — again — for Buchholz, whose ERA sits at 6.32. The 29-year-old acknowledged he has watched film from last season, when he went 13-1, and his hope is that things will start to break his way.
“From the first start of the season, I’ve been looking at film from last year,” Buchholz said. “It’s going back to getting a ground-ball double play when you need to get it, and it being hit right at somebody rather than it being hit just left (of them) or right (of them). Things got to work out right. There’s a little luck involved in everything, and I think that comes from being confident on the mound.”
Confidence certainly is a pitcher’s best friend. It’s difficult to maintain such confidence when you’re knocked around for six, seven, eight, nine or even 10 hits a start. Yet, Buchholz presses on.
“I’ve been through some ups and downs throughout my career,” Buchholz said, “and I’ve always found a way to battle back.”