Buchholz delivers dominant performance

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Buchholz delivers dominant performance

CLEVELAND Clay Buchholz wasnt about to hold himself up as some kind of stopper on the Red Sox staff.

He wanted to make sure everybody knows that each member of Bostons underperforming rotation is giving it their all every time out on the pitchers mound.

But results are what matter most in professional sports, and theyve all been in Buchholzs corner over the last few months while he continually pulls his team out of the losing doldrums.

It is what it is. Everybody wants to go out there and win every night. Unfortunately you cant always do that, and thats why this game is hard, said Buchholz, who improved to 10-3 on the season with a 4.24 ERA. It makes you focus a little more making good pitches, and not missing over the middle of the plate. That kind of focus is where you want to stay.

The lithe righty did it again on Friday night when he twirled a two-hit, complete game against the Cleveland Indians in a 3-2 win at Progressive Field. Buchholz improved to 9-2 in games following Red Sox losses over the last two years, and hes essentially become the teams ace while reputation guys named Beckett and Lester have faltered before him.

One area Beckett did help with Buchholz: showing him a split-fingered changeup grip last month. Since he incorporated that pitch with his standard changeup grip hes gone at least seven innings while allowing two runs or less in each of his last five starts.

It was probably about five starts ago that I started mixing that split change in when before Id only been using it when the straight change wasnt working. Now Im throwing both and getting some good defense behind me, said Buchholz. I felt good and I was able to throw the cutter where I wanted to. The changeup was down all night. Everything is working and rolling right now for me. Hopefully this sparks us and gets us going.

Above and beyond it all he improved to 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA over his last 11 starts dating back to May 27, and has the lowest ERA in the American League over that time period.
Its hard to believe Buchholz has turned it around so completely after struggling dreadfully through April and May when some were even unbelievably calling for him to go down to Pawtucket.

But his manager was one of his stanch supporters.

I believed in him, said Valentine. There were some Doubting Thomass out there, but I wanted to stick with him. He was throwing without a changeup earlier in the season, and then he and Josh worked on that split-fingered changeup in the bullpen right before one of his starts. Hes been using it ever since.

That unyielding dedication paid off on Friday when he dominated Cleveland with his cut fastball and two different changeups with a two-seam fastball mixed in liberally.

Buchholz gave up a home run and a double to Asdrubal Cabrera in his first two at bats, and didnt surrender a single hit to anybody else in an Indians uniform.

That was just what the doctor ordered. He was terrific, said Valentine. It was excellent. Sixty-something pitches after six innings and I thought he was in control all the way. He pitched great. There was no real strong contact aside from Asdrubal Cabrera.

He was using all his pitches. He was keeping the ball down in the zone. He was working both sides of the plate. They had all those left-handers in there and you saw him working the inside part of the plate.

In order for the Sox to get back into the playoff picture theyll need more from the rest of Buchholzs partners in the starting rotation. But they wouldnt even be in the conversation right now if Buchholz wasnt going through one of those unhittable stretches hes become known for in his sometimes-brilliant career with the Sox.

Its time for the rest of the Sox rotation to start playing catch-up to Clay.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.