Despite Bad Bounces Against Rangers, Clay Buchholz Moving in Right Direction


April 23, 2010

Despite Bad Bounces Against Rangers, Clay Buchholz Moving in Right Direction BOSTON — It could have gone either way. And after two nights of good bounces, the Red Sox finally got some bad ones.

Last season, Clay Buchholz excelled when the going got tough — and that was perhaps never more evident than during Game 3 of the ALDS against Los Angeles. With Boston's season hanging in the balance, Buchholz made his postseason debut and did something that neither Josh Beckett nor Jon Lester could do: He left the game having given Boston a chance to win, throwing five innings and allowing two runs before ceding to a bullpen that did not do its job.

This season — with Daisuke Matsuzaka breathing down his neck for a spot in the rotation, and knowing he had yet to make a quality start in 2010 — Buchholz did it again. And just like in the ALDS, the outcome of Thursday's 3-0 loss to Texas could have gone either way.

It went the wrong way.

"I thought [Buchholz] was tremendous," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona
after the game. "He was quick to the plate but under control, and
again, he came out of the chute just hitting his spots with a lot of
finish on his pitches."

Thursday was by far Buchholz's best start of the season. Given the small sample size of three, that may not be saying much, but his command — aside from the seventh inning — could not be questioned. In his two starts prior to Thursday, he lasted 10 innings total, allowed 10 hits, struck out eight and walked six. On Thursday, his focus was better, his tempo was better, he was hitting his spots and it showed in his line: 6 2/3 innings, 114 pitches, six hits, three runs, 10 strikeouts. 

"It's gonna take one series to click," Buchholz said. "We've had two
good comeback wins, and the team's feeling good. Everyone knows this
team can win. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it on a
consistent basis."

The only time Buchholz looked rattled was with runners on base — and given the Rangers' propensity for stealing, base runners are always worrisome. But in a situation in which he has previously struggled to maintain his focus, Buchholz was able to talk himself over the hurdle.

"You can't get around the fact that they're a very aggressive base-running team," Francona said. "He did a very good job of unloading and … for the most part, he managed the game very well."

Buchholz was untouchable through six innings, surrendering just two hits and notching a career high 10 K's — but then, in the seventh, things began to unravel. Buchholz surrendered two doubles, which allowed Texas to take a 2-0 lead. And after two ugly errors on an Andres Blanco bunt down the first-base line — one of which was attributed to Buchholz — the momentum was gone. Texas went up 3-0, Buchholz's night ended and Boston's offense couldn't pick him up.

"Other than the seventh inning, I felt really good about it," Buchholz said. "I feel like I missed two spots with the fastball, and both got hit for doubles in the seventh inning. … But other than that, I felt good. I felt like I'm moving in the right direction. Things are clicking a little bit more."

Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who had made 247 straight relief appearances before starting on April 8 of this year, was just a little bit more untouchable than Buchholz. En route to his first-ever win as a starter, he threw 6 2/3 innings of four-hit shutout ball. 

"C.J. threw a better game than I did," Buchholz said. "That's basically what it comes down to. He kept guys off
balance, guys hit ground balls when he needed them to hit ground balls,
and I can't really say anything else about it."

Coming off two character-building walk-off wins, Thursday's dud may have been tough for the Fenway faithful to handle. But the team itself doesn't appear to be feeling any negative side effects from the loss. 

"It sucks that we lost," Buchholz said, "but I guess you're gonna win
some and you're gonna lose some. And that guy they had throwing was
pretty good."

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