Clay Buchholz Battles Without Best Stuff, Hangs On For Win

Editor’s note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine’s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

Clay Buchholz clearly did not have his best stuff Tuesday night

In stark contrast with his previous four outings, in which he gave up just five earned runs in 31 innings of work, Buchholz’s roll pretty much ended against the Miami Marlins. However, the 27-year-old and the Red Sox may have learned something much, much more important about Buchholz than how he pitches when he’s on top of his game: the righty is learning how to battle.

One of the key adjustments that pitchers have to make as they establish themselves in the major leagues is how to battle and keep the team in the game when they don’t have their best stuff. Likewise, it’s one of the most difficult skills for youngsters to learn, as they have a tendency to let bad innings snowball and trouble keeping their emotions in check.

Likewise, it’s hard not to think that a younger version of Buchholz might have been driven out of the game early on a night when Logan Morrison put up five RBIs and generally seemed to have the best of the Red Sox starter. Instead, Buchholz hung around without his best stuff.

The results weren’t necessarily pretty, but when you have an offense as prolific as Boston’s, you don’t need to be perfect every night to put another tally in the victory column. And that’s exactly what Buchholz did, pitching long enough to take pressure off of the bullpen and generally doing just barely enough to keep his team in the game.

With good power stuff, Buchholz has about as much an advantage over hitters as anyone, but at the major league level if your location isn’t on, it doesn’t matter much if you can throw in the mid-90s. And that’s what Buchholz showed on Tuesday night: a pitcher fighting his fastball location and sporting a curveball much flatter than he’s used to.

“His location with his fastball wasn’t what it had been,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine of Buchholz’s night. “But it’s another notch in the win column. That will get him to come back strong.”

And that’s percisely how Morrison was able to take advantage, hitting a flat curveball up in the zone for a fifth-inning two-run double off the wall in center. But the difference was that, on this night, Buchholz didn’t continue leaving pitches up in the zone, getting the next batter up, Greg Dobbs, to hit a ground ball to third.

Buchholz may not have had his best stuff Tuesday night, but the results were almost more encouraging than had he actually pitched well.

Now the Red Sox know a lot more about their starting pitcher and his mental fortitude.