BOSTON — The Clay Buchholz narrative could turn you blue in the face.
Buchholz’s season has been a repetition of inhales and exhales — inhales when he takes the mounds, exhales when he doesn’t implode — for the Red Sox, as it’s nearly possible to predict which version of the right-hander will show up on a given night. There’s no denying Buchholz can be filthy when all is right, but there are some instances, like the fifth inning of Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park, when everything snowballs in bewildering fashion.
“The difference between everything that’s going on this year and last year (is) it’s a lot of balls that are finding holes or home runs or doubles were hit at somebody last year and I got a lot of double plays that way,” Buchholz said after Wednesday’s loss while trying to make sense of his tumultuous 2014 campaign. “Sometimes, that’s the way it goes. You don’t ever want it to be a full season, but that’s the way it is sometimes. You’ve got to keep grinding.”
Buchholz started off on the right foot Wednesday. He needed just 11 pitches to breeze through a spotless first inning. He tossed 31 pitches through the first three frames, in which he allowed only one baserunner while striking out three Angels hitters. It wasn’t until Josh Hamilton doubled and Howie Kendrick singled in the fourth inning that things veered off the track. Even then, catcher David Ross shouldered the blame for calling for a first-pitch fastball that Hamilton drilled off the Green Monster.
The fifth inning was a disaster, though. Buchholz went from producing his third consecutive strong start to enduring yet another disappointing outing. The Halos posted five runs on four hits and two walks while grabbing a lead they would never relinquish.
“Through the first four (innings), I thought he was sharp. He had good, late action to his stuff,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “In the fifth, when he got ahead of a couple of hitters, he didn’t have the same finishing pitch he had shown through the previous four (innings). They were able to put some people on. … They found some holes, they bunched some hits and some walks for the five runs.”
The first three hitters reached base against Buchholz in the fifth inning on a walk and a pair of singles. Buchholz made things worse with a 3-2 cutter in the dirty — walking in a run — and the floodgates promptly opened.
Mike Trout lifted a fly ball down the right field line. Some miscommunication between right fielder Daniel Nava and second baseman Dustin Pedroia led to the ball dropping. The Red Sox were able to record a forceout at second base, but Chris Iannetta trotted home with the Angels’ second run.
Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick each added an RBI single in the inning. Josh Hamilton chipped in a sacrifice fly.
“I think out of the stretch he got a little rushed and couldn’t find the strike zone. And when he did, they got some hits,” Ross said. “Other than that, just that one inning, I thought he threw the ball pretty well. I think he was just not quite as sharp out of the stretch tonight.”
Buchholz tossed 38 pitches before finally escaping the fifth inning. He worked a 1-2-3 sixth, even striking out the final two batters he faced, but the damage was done.
“Each inning is going to present a different situation in which to work through,” Farrell said. “Again, he was very strong through the first four. I wouldn’t say it drives you crazy. I think you always look for ways to improve to maintain the consistency throughout. He comes back out in the sixth inning with another clean inning, but after a (38-pitch) inning, felt like that was enough for the night.”
Frustrating. Disappointing. Exasperating.
All can be used to describe Buchholz’s season, as the pitcher keeps crashing back down to earth whenever he begins to show progress.