Unarmed Buchholz wins the battle against Cardinals

Unarmed Buchholz wins the battle against Cardinals
October 28, 2013, 2:30 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

ST. LOUIS -- It wasn't as long as he or his team would have liked, but Clay Buchholz delivered plenty for the Red Sox in their 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday night in Game 4 of the World Series.

For the last five days, there was rampant speculation that Buchholz, limited by a weak shoulder, wouldn't be able to start at all. There was talk of the Red Sox having contingency plans in the event that Buchholz couldn't pitch effectively, or couldn't pitch at all.

But Buchholz made do with what he had. Though his fastball never topped 89 mph all night, he gave the Red Sox four innings in which he allowed just one run -- and that was unearned.

"A lot of scrutiny about his situation," said John Farrell, "but given that he might not have had his midseason stuff, if the ball doesn't bounce up off some clump of grass (on center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, leading to an error and, eventually, the unearned run), Carlos Beltran might ground into a double play and [Buchholz] may not have given up a run through four innings."

Without his usual fastball, Buchholz had to concentrate on location, changing speeds and mixing his pitches -- all of which he did expertly.

"I felt good," said Buchholz. "I was conscious not to overthrow, knowing that I wasn't going to have the fastball that I usually have. Doing that created more movement on a couple of pitches and I had some really good defensive plays behind me and I was able to stay away from a big inning."

Without an overpowering four-seam fastball, Buchholz relied more on his two-seamer, keeping the ball down in the zone and generating plenty of ground balls. He recorded two outs on the ground in the first, two more in the second and another two in the fourth.

"My velocity wasn't near what it usually is," said Buchholz, "but I was able to stay away from the fat part of the bat and got a couple of mishit balls."

Buchholz heard the criticism that he wasn't showing enough mental toughness, particularly when he low-balled expectations for himself in a Saturday press conference.

But with what little he had at his disposal, he took pride in giving the Sox as much as he could for as long as he could.

"I was just going out and competing," he said, "and that's what I felt like I did today, given the fact that in National League games, there's a situation that comes up and you get hit for. I felt like, obviously, that I gave it all that I could while I was out there."

In the days leading up to the start, Buchholz was barely throwing at half-speed while going through informal side sessions. That led some to believe that he wasn't able to throw harder. But the adrenaline provided by the atmosphere and the significance of the World Series stage got him energized, even before he took the mound.

"Throwing in the bullpen and getting in a real bullpen routine," said Buchholz, "after I got over that hump, I felt pretty good as far as mentally not thinking about (any weakness in his shoulder)."

He didn't get the win, but he helped the Red Sox got one as a team. And that provided some satisfaction, even though he was nowhere near 100 percent.

"It's tough to think about all the stuff I went through to get to this point," said Buchholz. "World Series, it might be the last time it ever happens. If I didn't go out there and at least tried, I don't think I could ever forgive myself. I think it was a good experience for me to have to go through something like that, but at the same time, I don't want to do it again. I want to be completely healthy next time."