BOSTON — Clay Buchholz is moving in the right direction, even if the Red Sox aren’t necessarily doing the same.
Buchholz looked sharp Tuesday in his second start since returning from the disabled list June 25. He didn’t factor into the decision because of another poor showing by the Red Sox’s offense, but the right-hander made strides in Boston’s 2-1 loss.
“His stuff in (his last start) was better than before he went on the DL. And then tonight, it was even better,” Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “He looks like he’s getting back to where he needs to be and where he’s been, where I’ve seen him in the past. Hopefully we can continue to build off this in five days. He’s pitching better. He looks better, he looks more comfortable out there and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Buchholz allowed just one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday. He retired 13 hitters in a row at one point after allowing two men to reach in the first inning. His only blemish came in the sixth inning, when Justin Ruggiano doubled and Darwin Barney singled before the Cubs tied the game on Chris Coghlan’s ground ball to second base.
Buchholz wasn’t lights-out. He struck out only two and began to struggle toward the end of his outing, eventually exiting with one out in the seventh inning after allowing a single to Starlin Castro and hitting Welington Castro on the foot with a 3-2 pitch. But Buchholz featured a fastball that touched 93 to 94 mph, didn’t walk anyone and threw 100 pitches (61 strikes).
“I thought he had good stuff — probably one of the better fastballs he’s had the entire season,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I thought he threw a number of really good curveballs.”
Buchholz hasn’t walked a batter in his two starts — 13 2/3 innings — since coming off the disabled list. He’s mixing his pitches, keeping the game under control and pitching with a level of poise that was absent when he stumbled to a 7.02 ERA through 10 starts before landing on the DL. Finally, Buchholz seems to have discovered a successful formula, both mentally and mechanically.
“The mechanical change I made (while on the DL) — I think that was the only thing that I had to alter moving forward. It worked itself out. It’s tough going out there and having to do that and think of two or three different things while pitching in a game,” Buchholz said. “The step back I took to try to get everything back to square one, it looks like it was the best decision. I’m confident when I go out there. I feel like I can throw all my pitches for strikes.”
As Buchholz’s confidence grows, so, too, does the Red Sox’s faith in his ability to provide a quality outing. The problem for Buchholz on Tuesday, of course, was that the offense — again — didn’t show up.