Clay Buchholz took a step in the right direction.
He didn't earn the victory in Wednesday's 2-1 loss against the Rays — he's been awarded his fair share of Ws this season amid lackluster stretches anyway — but he showed shades of the old pitcher the Red Sox have known and revered.
Through five innings, Buchholz demonstrated a sense of comfort with his changeup, a pitch that has been sorely lacking from his arsenal this season. In recent years, the changeup was his bread and butter, but that wasn't the case for much of April and May.
It didn't matter that Buchholz snapped the Red Sox rotation's streak of five games with quality outings. The fact is, Buchholz mixed his changeup, curveball and fastball nicely while allowing just two runs through five frames.
"I felt like everything was good," Buchholz told reporters in St. Petersburg. "I was able to locate curveballs early in the count and use it as a finish pitch."
Both runs were also scored in uncharacteristic fashion. With Carlos Pena on third base, Buchholz balked in the second inning — the first of three balks for the pitching staff in the game — and allowed the runner to score.
"I thought it was very weird — one run scores on a balk and another scores on a short fly ball," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters. "The guy wasn't going to score on that ball until [Ross] kind of lost it."
Despite the blemishes, Buchholz turned in his second straight solid outing of the season, yielding two runs on six hits while striking out six batters. In the process, he was able to lower his major league high ERA from 7.77 from 9.09.
Buchholz was also efficient against Tampa Bay's lineup, tossing 87 pitches in the appearance. Valentine said the only reason he yanked Buchholz prematurely was to be cautious after Buchholz was hit in the foot by a line drive.
Although Buchholz exited early, it still represented an impressive turnaround. The right-hander allowed six hits, five runs and three walks in his last start against the Rays on April 14.