BOSTON — It wasn’t the start that Clay Buchholz or any other pitcher would have wanted. The right-hander saw his second pitch of the night deposited into Monster seats by Austin Jackson, perhaps setting the tone for a forgettable night for Buchholz.
When he gave up another run before loading the bases in the third inning, it again looked like Buchholz may be headed down the road toward a disastrous start.
Instead, however, the wiry righty got Delmon Young to ground into an inning-ending double play, ending the threat and setting the tone for the latest in a growing line of impressive starts when the Red Sox have needed them the most.
Buchholz admitted that his pregame warm-up tosses in the bullpen were a little bit alarming, as he was struggling to find his release point and was leaving the ball up. That continued just two pitches into the game, but it’s a credit to the pitcher that he was able to settle in and deliver a stellar eight-inning performance allowing just three runs, only two of them earned.
The real game-changer came in the third inning. After Omar Infante scored on a Miguel Cabrera RBI single, Buchholz ended up walking Prince Fielder, which loaded the bases. Buchholz would save his outing, though, by getting Young to bounce one to Pedro Ciriaco who started a 6-4-3 double play.
Buchholz allowed just one hit and the one unearned run in the five innings that followed on the way to his ninth win of the season.
“That was big,” understated Buchholz, who got Young to roll over a 90 mph cut fastball for the pivotal DP. “Didn’t really have the two-seam fastball I had the last few times, and I had to rely a little bit more on the cutter and the four-seamer. That was a big part of the game.
“That could have ended a lot different if I don’t get that ground ball.”
The entire performance, not just the ability to get the ground ball when he needed it most, had Bobby Valentine impressed.
“It’s obvious what I thought of him. I thought he was spectacular,” the Red Sox manager stated.
Valentine also praised Buchholz not only for his ability to get the Young double play, but to also settle down in the first inning, even as Quintin Berry reached third a couple of batters after the Jackson home run.
Buchholz escaped further damage, giving the Red Sox a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the opening frame.
“That’s always a confidence builder to take the momentum away,” Valentine said. “After the home run and the double, the man gets to third and Clay leaves him there. I think that’s what cut the power source off.”
Cut the power source off Buchholz did, limiting one of the best offenses in the game to just three runs over eight innings and giving the Red Sox their latest chance to try and get back into the American League playoff race.
Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned for the last-place Red Sox in Buchholz’s outing. Sometimes all it takes is that one game-changing play to turn the tide of a game. The righty spoke about taking things pitch by pitch and trusting his stuff, throwing it with conviction and not second-guessing his decisions.
The results spoke for themselves on Monday night, and if Boston can get continued outings like this from Buchholz and the rest of the staff, they’ll certainly like their chances moving forward, as they continue this pivotal 10-game homestand.
That might be asking a lot, especially given how disappointing the starting rotation has looked at times this season. But then again, sometimes an ominous start doesn’t always mean disaster is sure to follow.
Clay Buchholz offered a pretty good example of that Monday night.