There is perhaps no greater reminder of that fact than No. 61 on the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz.
The 25-year-old has had more ups and downs in his career than some 10-year veterans, but Saturday night's performance against the Blue Jays was unquestionably the second-best start of his career.
The righty gave up just one run in 8 1/3 innings, earning his third win as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 3-2.
Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2
Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.
August 29, 2009
Headliner: Clay Buchholz looked as good as he has since Sept. 1, 2007 — the night he threw a no-hitter at Fenway Park. On this night, he gave up a hit early — an infield hit to Kevin Millar, who appeared to be out at first base on replay — but was extraordinarily sharp, giving up just three hits (all singles) in 8 1/3 innings of work. Buchholz struck out nine Jays and walked two, coming tantalizingly close to pitching the second complete game of his career.
Buchholz pelted the Jays with a steady barrage of fastballs, curveballs and changeups, throwing 63 percent of his 107 pitches for strikes.
On a night when the offense wasn't explosive, Buchholz was nearly perfect, giving the Red Sox and their fans a positive sign heading into a playoff race in September.
Dirt Dog: Dustin Pedroia was a tough out for Blue Jays' pitching all night, seeing a team-high 26 pitches. In the first inning, he drove in Jacoby Ellsbury on a single to left field for what proved to be a crucial RBI. At the end of the night, Pedroia went 3-for-4 with a walk but, more importantly, provided an early lead for Buchholz.
Better Luck Next Time: He likely had a reason, but we'll likely never know. Terry Francona strolled to the mound with one out and one on in the ninth, his starter managing a pitch count of 107. The skipper decided to take Buchholz out of the game, inserting Hideki Okajima in his place.
The move backfired — quickly. Okajima's second pitch was sent into the gap in left-center field by Adam Lind, scoring the runner from first. Two pitches later, Lyle Overbay made it a one-run game by singling home Lind.
Whether or not Buchholz would have fared better can't be known, but given his effectiveness through eight-plus innings, it's hard to imagine he couldn't have gutted out the complete game.
Key Moment: Following Okajima's failure to record an out, Jonathan Papelbon entered a 3-2 game with the tying run on base and just one out. The closer got Vernon Wells to pop up to the catcher before getting Kevin Millar to end the game with a another popup to Mike Lowell. Papelbon secured his 32nd save of the year and a crucial win for the Red Sox, who remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Texas Rangers for the American League wild card.
On Deck: The Red Sox look to make it a clean sweep on Sunday afternoon as they host the Blue Jays at 1:35 p.m. Paul Byrd will make his 2009 Red Sox debut, while the Jays will send their ace, Roy Halladay, to the mound.