BOSTON — The Red Sox have been dealt a difficult hand.
Boston finally discovered an ace (kind of) in Clay Buchholz, yet the deck worked against the Red Sox in Friday night’s series opener versus the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Buchholz exited his start in the fourth inning with right elbow tightness, forcing the Red Sox to hold their collective breath amid an extremely important series just days before the Major League Baseball All-Star break.
“There’s some tightness, some stiffness in the elbow area,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said immediately following Friday’s 5-1 loss, which snapped a four-game winning streak. “He’s undergoing a full workup with imaging. Until we get any further information, that’s all we have right now.”
Friday’s loss stung. The Red Sox rode a wave of momentum into the contest, yet the good vibes came to a screeching halt. Alex Rodriguez launched a solo home run in the first inning and the Yankees scored three runs in the fourth inning while the Red Sox fell all over themselves defensively.
Goodbye, season-high winning streak.
But Friday’s result means little in comparison to the Red Sox potentially losing their most reliable starting pitcher for any significant chunk of time. Perhaps everything will check out OK and Boston will dodge a bullet with regard to Buchholz, who has been on an impressive run, but the mere thought of losing the closest thing the Red Sox have to a legitimate No. 1 starter is unsettling.
“I don’t know how serious it is. Hopefully he isn’t out an extended period of time,” Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “He was throwing really well for us. He’s the main guy on our pitching staff who was doing a really consistent job, especially lately. It would be tough to lose him for some time.”
Buchholz has been among the American League’s best starters of late. He entered Friday having won five consecutive decisions — his longest winning streak since the beginning of 2013 — and he owned a 1.99 ERA over his last 10 starts. One could make the case Buchholz should have been an All-Star, but even without a nod, the Red Sox still could feel good about where he was both physically and mentally.
Now, the Red Sox are left to wonder whether they’ll be without Buchholz to open the second half. His injury didn’t look all that serious. And there really was no indication he was hurt until his final pitch registered a tick below his normal velocity and he motioned to catcher Sandy Leon, who then waved to the dugout. But Boston knows all too well that the injury bug can prove problematic for Buchholz. He’s never had any elbow issues in the past, but the right-hander has failed to reach the 30-start or 200-inning marks in any of his eight big league seasons before this year.
“He’s been big for us. He’s been our ace,” said Brock Holt, whose error in the fourth inning opened the door for New York’s three-run, game-changing frame. “Every fifth day, he goes out and he’s giving us a chance to win. To see him go out, it’s a big loss for us.”
Rick Porcello’s struggles are well-documented. Justin Masterson’s role beyond this week is unclear. Joe Kelly is at Triple-A Pawtucket. Eduardo Rodriguez still is a rookie. Wade Miley has been OK.
Clearly, the Red Sox’s rotation features question marks. Might as well add one more to the list, at least until Boston learns more information about the troubling situation involving Buchholz’s elbow.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images