If it weren’t for bad luck, Clay Buchholz would have no luck at all.
He won his 2009 debut in Toronto on July 17th. Since then, he surrendered three runs in a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers, watched as his bullpen blew a 6-2 lead against the Oakland Athletics (he got a No Decision in an eventual 9-8 loss), and then allowed just two runs in each of his last two starts—only to watch CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander shut out the Sox.
Mixed in among the other outings was one brutal appearance against the Baltimore Orioles. Buccholz pitched four innings pitches and was tagged for seven earned runs.
If we consider his five games other than the Orioles start (in which he got a no decision), Buchholz is 1-3, 2.86…he has pitched 28.3 innings, allowing 9 ER on 30 hits while striking out 17 hitters. He has been able to keep his club in each of those games despite walking 19 opposing hitters—an unusually large number for a guy who has been a control pitcher in the minor leagues. (But control is a function of confidence, which is likely to improve as he gains experience).
In his three losses, he has allowed a total of six earned runs in 17 IP, while his offense has scored a grand total of just one run.
And on top of it all, not only did he have to square off against Verlander (13-6) today, he had to do so in the afternoon—when the Tigers are 26-14 this season (the second-best record in the majors).
The fickle finger of fate just hasn’t been on his side.
This afternoon, he allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks over seven innings pitched. He still threw too many balls, as evidenced by the three walks he issued (and the fact that only 60 of his 100 pitches were strikes). He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 29 batters he faced.
Yet, the Sox were still one swing of the bat from tying the game when Jason Bay came to bat in the eighth inning. It is a testament to just how talented the young right-hander from Nederland, TX, is when he steps out onto the mound.
I had the sense that while the Sox may have lost today’s battle, they may have won the war…they may have found their No. 3 starter—his name is Clay Buchholz.
Manager Terry Francona opined: “As good as Verlander was, and I’m probably exaggerating, I thought Clay was (only) one pitch worse. We just ran up against one of the better performances you’ll see”.
Buchholz said: “I’m picking the wrong pitchers to throw against. The last two guys have been as good as I’ve seen, so you can’t read too deep into (my record)”.
For his part, Verlander was immense. With Jacoby Ellsbury standing on second base and Bay in the batter’s box representing the tying run in the eighth inning, the Tigers ace reached back and found some extra mustard—he threw a pair of 100-mph fastballs passed the Sox left fielder for the strikeout that retired the side.
He allowed just four hits and issued one walk while striking out eight Red Sox batters, including Bay three times and David Ortiz twice.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said: “That’s a horse. That was a brilliant performance. The eighth inning was textbook…to do what he did in that inning, at that point in the ballgame, there’s not many guys who can do that”.
The Tigers scored their first run in the fourth inning. Miguel Cabrera hit a sinking line drive into right field that hit off Josh Reddick’s shoe and bounced away…Cabrera ended up at second base on the play and later took third on a groundout. He scored on Ryan Raburn’s infield single.
Raburn made it 2-0 in the seventh inning with a home run over the Green Monster in left field, his seventh of the season.
Victor Martinez had two hits and stole a base…it was just the second steal in his career—his first since 2003.