Through his first nine starts of the season, Clay Buchholz was the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball. He had a 4-2 record in those nine starts, sure, but he also had a 7.84 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .330. He allowed 11 home runs in just 49.1 innings pitched.
To put it bluntly, Buchholz wasn't fooling anyone. When he pitched, Red Sox Nation groaned. Some no doubt pleaded for a merciful end to the torture.
Red Sox Nation's cries of woe were heard. By the good graces of some mysterious power, the Buchholz of old has returned.
On Thursday night at Fenway Park, Buchholz helped the Red Sox avoid a sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles by spinning his first complete-game shutout in over two years. He held the O's to four hits and a walk, striking out six in the process. Not a single O's runner was able to advance past second base, and Boston's offense provided Buchholz with seven runs of support.
The few thousand fans in Boston who weren't watching Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals approved of Buchholz's outing. So did Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who was floored by what he saw.
“It was spectacular,” said Bobby V after the game, according to The Boston Globe.
Indeed it was. Buchholz was able to keep his fastball in the zone throughout the entire game, and the O's had no answer for Buchholz's lethal changeup. It had gone missing earlier in the year when Buchholz was struggling, but he said he was recently able to rediscover the right grip. The results speak for themselves, and O's hitters will certainly vouch that the changeup was working quite wonderfully on Thursday night.
If they'd rather not vouch for it, the video highlights will. Head on over to MLB.com to check those out.
There's a little bit of trivia to discuss here. Thursday night's gem was the third shutout of Buchholz's career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com), all three of those shutouts have come against the Orioles. They've all come since 2007, making Buchholz just the third pitcher in baseball with three shutouts against one team since the start of the '07 season. The other two are John Lackey and Roy Halladay, who both blanked the Seattle Mariners three times.
It would be nice if Buchholz could face the O's every time out, but the Red Sox will be content if Buchholz keeps doing what he's done in his last three starts. In those, he has a record of 2-0, an ERA of 1.50, and an opponents' batting average of .214 in 24 innings pitched.
A couple of weeks ago, Buchholz looked like a lost cause. Now he looks like Boston's best pitcher. Bravo, old sport.
Time will tell whether or not Buchholz's resurgence is for real or is merely a mirage. For the time being, he can enjoy the American League "Best of the Night" award I am bestowing on him for his stellar performance on Thursday night.
Now then, all the Red Sox need to do is figure out Jon Lester. Good luck with that.
If you ever want to nominate somebody for American League "Best of the Night" honors, hit me up on Twitter.