Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish gave everyone something to talk about with his near-perfect performance against the Boston Red Sox on Friday. It’s a good thing for Clay Buchholz.
The Red Sox’s inability to solve Darvish — he had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth inning — overshadowed the more important and more discouraging aspect of Boston’s 8-0 loss. Buchholz, who had begun to move in the right direction in his last two starts, took a step backward against the Rangers, reopening questions about the right-hander’s ineffectiveness.
Buchholz yielded 10 hits — his second-highest total of the season — and was tagged for six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three, walked two and got knocked around by a Rangers offense that has struggled for much of the season despite the unit’s ample talent.
“It was location, consistent location,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Buchholz’s woes. “And against a team that seemingly is coming out of their downturn and swung the bat very well tonight.”
Buchholz entered Friday’s series opener against the Rangers on the heels of back-to-back wins. He showed improvement over his early season struggles with seven innings of three-run ball against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 26, and he lasted into the seventh inning while allowing just one run against the Oakland Athletics in his last start on May 2. It was reasonable to be optimistic about the 29-year-old’s progress.
That optimism surely has reverted back to pessimism following Friday’s effort, though. Buchholz doesn’t look like the same pitcher who went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 regular-season starts last season. He isn’t generating swings and misses — he only had four Friday — and he’s uncharacteristically mislocating with several pitches per game. Even with a few pretty good outings mixed in, it’s impossible to feel too good about the pitcher’s overall body of work.
“He was up,” Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after Friday’s loss. “The last couple of starts, he’d been really good, been down. But tonight he was just up a little bit, and they didn’t miss it.”
Buchholz has surrendered seven or more hits in four of his seven starts this season. Opponents produced seven hits against Buchholz just three times all of last season.
“There were pitches up in the strike zone that they did a good job of staying through the middle of the field,” Farrell said of Friday’s effort. “A number of base hits up the middle, they were able to bunch them and then in the five-run fifth, things got away from us.”
Buchholz’s ERA climbed to 6.44 with Friday’s shaky outing. Darvish’s near-no-hitter is what will dominate headlines, but the Red Sox simply ran into one of baseball’s best pitchers pitching his best. There really isn’t much Boston could do about that.
Buchholz’s lingering issues represent Boston’s real dilemma.