BOSTON This was the Clay Buchholz the Red Sox have been waiting for.
Dominant. Efficient. Durable. And winning.
Buchholz went eight innings against the Blue Jays Friday night at Rogers Center, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks with a season-high seven strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches, 71 for strikes, as the Sox beat the Jays, 7-2.
Buchholz improved his record to 5-2, dropping his ERA from 7.19 to 6.58.
Hes been building to that, thats for sure, said manager Bobby Valentine. Clay Buchholz was terrific tonight. Extra on his fastball, terrific changeup, changed his angle a little on his breaking ball, two strikes very competitive. I like that. He likes that. And I expect we can get more of the same.
The two runs Buchholz gave up were on solo home runs with two outs, one by Yunel Escobar in the third, the other by David Cooper in the seventh. Other than that, the Jays offered Buchholz little in the way of a challenge.
It felt good, Buchholz said. Its been building up to that last four or five times out. I just hadnt had the inning where I could shut them down without scoring you know, three or four runs in one inning. It came together tonight. I was able to get weak contact in big situations. A couple of DPs in big situations and guys hit and put up some runs.
Three of Buchholz's seven strikeouts were at the expense of Jose Bautista. Buchholz got him swinging at fastballs in the first and third innings, and looking at a curveball in the sixth.
Buchholz struck out the side in order in the sixth, starting with Bautista. He then got Edwin Encarnacion, also looking at a curveball, and Colby Rasmus looking at fastball.
Buchholz is pleased with the progress of his fastball.
It just felt good, comfortable, he said. I feel like my arm is getting
stronger. Given the back thing last year and starting to throw this offseason, it was more of a precautionary thing rather than trying to get it in shape to go out there and endure 200 innings of pitching. Its getting to the point where it should have in the middle of spring training right now.
In his last two starts, Buchholz has a 2.40 ERA, giving up four total earned runs on 15 innings with 13 strikeouts.
It was the longest Buchholz has gone into a game this season, and the longest since eight innings against the White Sox in Chicago on Sept. 27, 2010. His last longer outing was a complete-game shutout in Baltimore on June 4, 2010.
He wanted the eighth and I wanted him to do it, Valentine said. He didn't have many pitches. Now hes conquered eight. And it was only 108 pitches when it was all said and done. But there were a couple of tough innings. I know its only June 1 but when our team comes together and individuals build as the season goes on, thats how a team builds confidence in itself.
He came down and asked me if I had anything left and I said yeah, I have a lot left, Buchholz said.
Which is what the Red Sox want to hear.