Clay Buchholz’s Stellar Showing Comes At Crucial Juncture For Red Sox

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Houston AstrosClay Buchholz will not be making the trip to Minnesota this week for Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities. His brutal showing in April and May squashed any hopes of that months ago.

The performance the Boston Red Sox right-hander put on Sunday in Houston, however, certainly was All-Star worthy.

Buchholz was masterful on the mound against the Astros, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout as the Red Sox closed out the unofficial first half of their season with an 11-0 beatdown. He did not walk a batter, struck out a career-high 12 and remained in complete control from first pitch to final out.

The Astros threatened just once in the ballgame, putting two men in scoring position with two outs in the fourth inning when a pitch in the dirt from Buchholz got past catcher Christian Vazquez. After from that brief scare — Buchholz got Matt Dominguez to ground out to end the inning — the hurler was unhittable. Buchholz did not allow another Astros hitter to reach base, retiring the final 17 batters he faced, eight of them via strikeout.

While this was happening, Buchholz’s teammates were tearing the cover off the ball. Houston starter Brad Peacock lasted just 1/3 of an inning after surrendering a leadoff home run to Brock Holt, and the Red Sox went on to knock around five Astros relievers to the tune of 16 hits and a season-high 11 runs. Holt went 5-for-6 in the contest, and David Ortiz was the lone Red Sox starter not to record a hit (though he did reach on a first-inning walk).

The outing — just the second complete game thrown by a Red Sox pitcher this season — was yet another positive step in Buchholz’s road to proving that his seriously underwhelming start to 2014 was an exception, not the norm. He’s been very solid since returning from his month-long disabled list stint in June, particularly in the control department (one walk total in four starts).

Sunday’s game wasn’t just about the man on the mound, though. The dominant win now makes it possible for the Red Sox to enter the All-Star break on the upswing after coming a one-run loss short of a five-game winning streak. That’s something that did not seem possible a week ago, when the Sox were swept and embarrassed at home by the hapless Chicago Cubs and went on to drop four straight against the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox.

After that stretch, you were hard-pressed to find much optimism surrounding this Red Sox team. “Rock bottom,” some were calling it. Now, while calling them a contender would still be a stretch, there’s at least reason for hope that Sox fans aren’t in for a long summer of meaningless baseball.

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