Clay Buchholz’s New Role As Red Sox’s Setup Man Off To A Rocky Start

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BOSTON — Just hours after reiterating his faith in Clay Buchholz as the Red Sox’s primary setup man, manager John Farrell had that faith tested.

Buchholz entered Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning with the score tied. When he exited, it wasn’t, as Evan Longoria blasted Buchholz’s 1-2 fastball over the Green Monster for a solo home run that was the difference in the Red Sox’s 4-3 loss.

“(I was) trying to throw it up and away, and I pulled it (in the) near third (of the plate) in a spot where he hits the ball a long way,” Buchholz said of the pitch that Longoria homered on. “He didn’t miss it.”

It’s the second time in as many relief outings Buchholz has allowed one run, as the converted starter labored through a 29-pitch eighth inning Monday night. Farrell said before the game that Brad Ziegler would be the Red Sox’s other eighth-inning option, but Ziegler had to leave the ballpark Tuesday with the flu and wasn’t available to pitch.

That left the eighth-inning burden on Buchholz, who became the latest member of Boston’s bullpen to cough up a lead. The Red Sox now have lost each of their last three one-run games, all to the Rays, and are 16-18 in such games this season.

“We’re putting ourselves in a position to close games out, and yet, we’ve found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing off the job,” Farrell said of his bullpen’s continued struggles. “We’ve had some change of roles, obviously — (Tuesday) particularly, with the absence of Brad. Trying to stay with a defined role has been a state of flux with the group that we have.”

Giving Buchholz the eighth inning apparently was part of Farrell’s plan to create some continuity, and it appears he’ll still stick with the 32-year-old in that role going forward.

“How the ball came out of his hand tonight — he was sharp, with the exception of the 1-2 fastball,” Farrell said.

Buchholz hasn’t seen much action in tight games this season, but when he has, it hasn’t been pretty. Opponents are hitting .323 against the veteran right-hander with seven homers and 21 runs scored in the 19 times he’s pitched during a tie game.

Still, Buchholz is embracing his new setup role and knows how important the late innings are for a team in the thick of a pennant race.

“It’s a different role, a different title, but you still have to go out there and make pitches,” Buchholz said. “The starters have been throwing the ball really well, so that leaves it up to the guys in the back end to pick up the slack whenever your name is called upon. (Tuesday) was just a one-pitch mistake night for me, and that’s what cost us the game.”

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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