Boston used strong pitching to overcome the Texas Rangers on Monday before proceeding to drop three straight, conceding an average of seven runs per game in the defeats. But, as he has done so many times before, Clay Buchholz stopped the slide on Friday, tossing a complete game two-hitter to earn his 10th win of the season against the Cleveland Indians.
Buchholz made a strong case to win his fourth straight Amica Pitcher of the Week award, but that honor has a different recipient this week thanks to righty Aaron Cook's seven-inning, one-run outing against the Rangers. Although Buchholz surrendered only one earned run in his start, Cook's performance is slightly more impressive since it came against the majors' highest-scoring offense. The Indians, on the other hand, rank just 17th in runs scored.
Cook's full line included six hits and, as is custom for the sinkerball pitcher, just two strikeouts. Fifteen of Cook's 21 outs came via ground ball, including a pair of double plays. Buchholz's line was extremely impressive: 9 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 6 K. It was his best outing since a four-hit shutout of the Orioles on June 7.
It seems like we say this every week, but it's impossible to ignore what Buchholz has done since May 27. He is 6-1 in his last 11 starts with a 2.08 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. If he hadn't started the season so poorly (7.84 ERA, 1.91 WHIP over his first nine starts), he'd be squarely in the Cy Young conversation.
Boston's other starters were not as successful this week, as Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Felix Doubront combined to allow 16 runs in 16 innings. Beckett, in particular, continues to struggle. He gave up eight runs in five innings against the Rangers on Wednesday, spoiling a nine-run outburst by the Red Sox offense. The 32-year-old righty hasn't pitched seven innings and allowed fewer than four runs since June 6 against Baltimore.
The Sox' pitching woes weren't limited to the starting rotation, however. The bullpen posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings of work, notably failing Wednesday when Alfredo Aceves allowed the go-ahead run to score on a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of a tie game.
With matchups against the Orioles and Yankees — who rank third and first in the majors in home runs, respectively — on tap for next week, Red Sox pitchers will have little margin for error. Boston needs Buchholz to continue to work his magic and hope that his effectiveness rubs off on his fellow starters. Until that happens, the Sox will find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff race.
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