Clay Buchholz Caps Historic Stretch for Red Sox Starting Rotation in Win Over Oakland


April 21, 2011

Clay Buchholz Caps Historic Stretch for Red Sox Starting Rotation in Win Over Oakland Clichés exist in large part because of their time-tested truths. One such cliché, one of many in the game of baseball, is that starting pitching is the key to success.

It's elementary, and remains true even when a solid start doesn't result in a win, as was the case for the Red Sox on Tuesday night when John Lackey's best effort of the season went to waste. But the spin on the cliché of late for Boston, buried by its poor start, was that if efforts like Lackey's just came on a consistent basis, that the wins would soon follow.

As manager Terry Francona has said, if you go a turn through the rotation and everybody gives his team a chance to win, "I'll be smiling."

Francona has to be smiling now. The Red Sox left Oakland victorious Wednesday after completing that turn through the rotation with historic success.

After Clay Buchholz allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings of a 5-3 win, Boston had seen five straight starters go five innings or more while allowing one run or less for the first time since 1994. It is no coincidence that the team has won four of those five games with Wednesday's triumph over the A's being the first on the road all year.

"Our pitching is going to be what takes us through the whole season and winning games," third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "If we don't pitch the ball well, we're not going to win games. If we throw the ball well and hold down the opposition to one run in five innings, that's going to be huge."

Buchholz did not have his best stuff. He gave up a solo homer to the A's leadoff batter, Coco Crisp, in the bottom of the first, and walked four. However, he was one of four Red Sox pitchers who got big outs in big situations and did his part to contribute to a pretty remarkable set of statistics for the starting rotation.

During the five-game run, Boston's starters have posted a 1.15 ERA, yielded just 20 hits in 31 1/3 innings and have allowed only the Crisp homer. All this after an early-season slump that saw opponents clear the fences on a regular basis.

Part of what makes good pitching good is surviving on days when you may not be completely on your game. That's what made Buchholz's effort stand out. After serving up the solo shot to Crisp, he admitted that "it could've gone south from there."

The same could be said for the second, when the A's had two on and one out but failed to score. Or the fourth, when they wasted a one-out double by Mark Ellis. Or the fifth, when two more reached against Buchholz but were stranded. Or the sixth, when the righty loaded the bases with one out on a double and two walks before yielding to Daniel Bard, who wiggled out of the mess to preserve a 4-1 lead.

In an otherwise rocky first month, Buchholz felt as if just limiting the damage was bringing him back to where he needs to be.

"I think that's why, as far as numbers were last year, I think that?s why they were so good," Buchholz said of being able to avoid the big hit. "I had a lot of guys on base, but I was able to find a way to get out of it with limited damage. That was the good thing about today."

His catcher, Jason Varitek, agreed, echoing the theme of the past five days.

"Clay kept that game at bay," Varitek said. "We do that over and over and it's going to allow our offense to really get going."

Even if the offense never does "really get going," stretches like this one by the rotation will keep the Red Sox afloat.

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