ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Making his first start in almost a month after a stay in the hospital and a stint on the disabled list, Clay Buchholz turned in a pretty good outing.
But matched against David Price, pretty good wasn't enough.
Buchholz pitched 6 13 innings Saturday, completing a return from esophagitis, allowing four earned runs on three hits while walking one and striking out eight.
He had checked the Rays on two runs through the first six and convinced Bobby Valentine to send him out for the seventh after throwing 79 pitches.
That proved ill-fated when Buchholz walked Luke Scott to start the inning, then hit Jeff Keppinger, giving the Rays two on with none out. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners to scoring position, Buchholz came out and the bullpen couldn't hold the one-run lead.
"Buchholz was really good,'' said Valentine. "He was really good until right at the end there.''
"I felt good,'' said Buchholz. "I felt rested. I felt like everything was coming out of my hand pretty good. I got behind Scott. I was still trying to find the changeup at that point in the game and spiked a couple of them.
"It is what it is. You can't give free baserunners to a team like this.''
Buchholz showed good fastball command, which he found encouraging. But he kicked himself for the lapse in the seventh, which proved his undoing.
"Whenever we get ahead of these guys,'' he said, "I need to find a way to keep runners from being on the basepath and giving them some free outs like we did tonight.''