Note to Clay: it helps when the offense scores you a couple of runs, too.
Tonight, it all came together. After back-to-back starts in which he opposed Joba Chamberlain (NYY) and Justin Verlander (DET) and his offense scored a grand total of zero runs, Buchholz faced Toronto ace Roy Halladay.
It could have proved to be another one of those frustrating nights for the young righthander, but Jason Bay and David Ortiz again led the offense as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 6-1, in Toronto.
Buchholz allowed just one run on six hits and a walk in six innings pitched. While he struggled to get through the fourth and sixth innings, he kept his emotions in check and was able to avoid the big inning.
His new favorite Blue Jay is 3B Edwin Encarnacion, whom he retired to end the threats in both the fourth and sixth.
Afterwards, he said: “It’s been a whole lot better for me so far this year, being back up, just getting outs in key situations and making some key pitches and minimizing damage. It’s going well right now.”
Meanwhile, at the plate, Bay and Ortiz continued their recent white-hot performances. Bay had just one hit, but that one base knock was a line drive, two-run home run (No. 27) over the wall in left field. It was Bay’s seventh home run in his last eleven games and he has driven in 12 runs in those games.
And lest we should forget Big Papi, he had two more hits, including a solo home run (No. 19). It was the third consecutive game in which Papi went yard, the first time he has done that since July 2006. He is 7-for-16 with four home runs and seven RBI in his last five games.
Victor Martinez had two more hits, including his fourth home run since being acquired on July 31. He also drove in his 13th run this month.
Ortiz gave the Sox an early lead with a leadoff homer in the second inning.
After the game, manager Terry Francona said: “He’s making a concerted effort every day…He’s staying with it and you’re seeing some more aggressive swings without trying to muster up all the strength and the bat’s getting through the zone a little bit better.”
Toronto starter Halladay, who many in Red Sox Nation wanted in a Red Sox uniform (even if the cost included Buchholz), allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks in five innings pitched—it was only the third time in 24 starts he has failed to work at least seven innings.
Bay said it was obvious Halladay was struggling with his control: “Usually he’s pounding the zone, but he was more erratic with his command tonight. We’re a team that if you don’t throw a lot of strikes, we’ll make you throw a lot of pitches a lot of the time. For whatever reason he wasn’t as crisp…”
After Ortiz put the Sox up in the second inning, Casey Kotchman reached on an infield single, stole second base, and scored on Alex Gonzalez’s RBI-single to double the lead. The Sox scored again in the top of the fourth inning on a single by Gonzalez and an RBI-triple by Jacoby Ellsbury.
After Buchholz retired nine of the first 10 batters in the game, he labored through the fourth inning. He went to three-ball counts on four of the six batters he faced and allowed the first Blue Jays run of the game. He fell behind 3-0 to both Aaron Hill (single) and Lyle Overbay (walk).
Vernon Wells then got ahead in the count (3-1) before lining an RBI-single into right-center field. With the tying runs on base, Buchholz threw a brilliant changeup to strike out DH Randy Ruiz for the second out. Once again, C-Buck fell behind in the count to Encarnacion, but he extricated himself with an outstanding, 84-mph curve ball on the outside corner that the third baseman beat into the ground for an inning-ending ground out.
Bay laced his two-run home run in the fifth inning to make the score 5-1.
Buchholz retired the side in order in the fifth inning, but again got into a jam in the sixth inning. Adam Lind, Vernon Wells, and Randy Ruiz each singled to load the bases with two outs, but the Red Sox RHP retired Encarnacion on a fly ball to center field. It would be the last pitch the native of Nederland, Texas would throw tonight.
Boston relievers Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, and Takashi Saito each pitched a hitless inning of relief to close out the Jays.
After Martinez hit a two-out home run in the ninth, Toronto reliever Brandon League hit Kevin Youkilis (in the elbow) with a pitch. Undaunted, Youk just jogged to first base.
Of the HBP, he said: “I’ve got no more comments. That’s how I’m going to handle it from here on out. When I get hit by a pitch, I’ve got no comment.”
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch in a Gulf Coast League game next Monday, then head to Boston to visit with doctors. If all goes well, he’ll pitch for Double-A Portland on August 29 and at Triple-A Pawtucket on September 3.
Dustin Pedroia is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow after flying to Boston on Tuesday to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s first child.