BOSTON — If you erase one hit from Clay Buchholz’s outing Friday, the numbers aren’t too bad: one unearned run on four hits over six innings of work.
Unfortunately for Buchholz and the Red Sox, that one hit was a big one.
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was the latest to victimize the right-hander with one swing of the bat, clubbing a three-run homer in the third inning that proved to be the difference in the Red Sox’s 4-2 loss at Fenway Park.
Kipnis’ blast represented the continuation of a troubling trend for Buchholz: The eight earned runs he’s given up in his last two starts have all come via the home run.
In his last outing against the Houston Astros, it was a Carlos Correa solo homer and a George Springer grand slam that did Buchholz in. This time around, it was a single and a walk that set up Kipnis’ game-changing homer, which came on a two-seam fastball that caught too much of the inside corner.
“Home runs are going to happen,” manager John Farrell said of Buchholz after the game. “I think we all look at the baserunners leading up to (Kipnis’ homer), where he probably puts himself in a little bit of a corner, where you don’t have much margin for error with men on base.”
Buchholz’s struggles with the long ball have been an issue all season. He’s allowed nine dingers in nine starts this season, and all but two have plated multiple runs (21 runs total). Simply put, opponents are making Buchholz pay for his mistakes, and Farrell believes that’s a result of one key factor.
“It’s been the location that has plagued him. Whether it’s been the first pitch or in fastball counts, he hasn’t gotten away with a swing-and-miss or a mis-hit. … In key moments, that’s where the fastball has kind of come back to bite him.”
Buchholz has shown promising signs outside his big mistakes. He pitched five scoreless frames Friday and occasionally has been able to find a groove. But his fastball command hasn’t been consistent, and his inability to harness it has yielded disappointing results: a 2-4 record and a 5.92 ERA through nine starts.
“The velocity is good on my fastball right now,” Buchholz said. “I don’t think there’s a pitcher in the world that doesn’t miss location every now and then. It just seems like, when I’m missing right now, it’s getting hit.”
Things won’t get any easier for Buchholz, whose next start likely will come next Thursday against a Colorado Rockies team that ranks fifth in the National League with 47 homers in 40 games. But the 31-year-old is taking ownership during his current rough patch.
“I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me at all,” Buchholz said. “I don’t feel sorry for myself. It’s a matter of getting through it, working through it, and finding a way to get an out instead of giving up a home run.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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