Buchholz flirts with no-hitter in 5-0 win over Rays

Buchholz flirts with no-hitter in 5-0 win over Rays
April 14, 2013, 4:30 pm
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BOSTON -- From his first pitch, a called strike on a 91-mph fastball, to his last, it was clear Clay Buchholz was on top of his game Sunday afternoon.
The Red Sox beat the Rays, 5-0, Sunday as Buchholz allowed just two hits and struck out 11, improving to 3-0 and lowering his ERA from 0.64 to 0.41.
Buchholz dominated the Rays, keeping them hitless until Kelly Johnson -- who entered the game hitting .182 and had already struck out twice against Buchholz in the game -- opened the eighth with a clean single to right field on Buchholz’s second pitch of the inning. Buchholz erased Johnson with his next pitch, getting Sam Fuld to hit into a 3-6-1 double play. Buchholz gave up his second hit to Desmond Jennings, the next batter, a double off the wall in left. But Ben Zobrist then flied out, ending the inning. That was all the offense the Rays could muster against Buchholz.
The Red Sox scored four runs off Rays right-hander Alex Cobb in the third, giving Buchholz more than enough of a cushion.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia opened the inning with consecutive singles before Mike Napoli’s drive to deep center field scored Ellsbury and Victorino, with Pedroia holding at third. After Daniel Nava was hit by a pitch, Will Middlebrooks grounded back to Cobb, with Pedroia getting forced at home. Stephen Drew grounded to first baseman James Loney, who threw to shortstop Yunel Escobar to force Middlebrooks, with Napoli scoring. But Escobar’s errant throw back to Loney on the double-play attempt sailed into the Sox dugout with Nava scoring, putting the Sox up 4-0.
The Sox got a run in the eighth when Pedroia led off with a double, taking third on Napoli’s groundout, and scoring on Middlebrooks’ sacrifice fly.
Cobb took the loss, falling to 1-1, with a 1.93 ERA. He went 6 2/3 innings giving up four runs, three earned, on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts, and a hit batter.
Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless ninth.

STAR OF THE GAME: Clay Buchholz
Buchholz dominated the Rays, keeping them hitless until the first batter of the eighth inning. He gave up just two hits in his eight-inning outing with four walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts. It was the longest start by a Sox pitcher since Buchholz went 8 2/3 innings on Sept. 9 against the Blue Jays.
In three starts this season, Buchholz is 3-0, lowering his ERA from 0.64 to 0.41.  He has thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings since the fifth inning of his April 3 season debut. It is the longest single-season scoreless streak by a Sox starting pitcher since Josh Beckett went 19 1/3 innings from April 27 – May 19,2011.
Buchholz is the first Sox pitcher to hold opponents to one or no run over at least seven innings in each of his first three outings of a season since Pedro Martinez’s first three games as a member of the Sox in 1998. Buchholz is the first Sox pitcher to do that and win all three starts since Tim Wakefield in 1995.
With 11 strikeouts in the game Buchholz has 19 in his last two starts, the highest two-game total of his career. It is the first time in his career he has struck out eight or more in consecutive starts.
He has a career 2.53 ERA against the Rays, giving up 27 earned runs over 96 innings in 15 starts.

Pedroia went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. It was his fifth multi-hit game of the season, matching Shane Victorino for the team high.  He has reached base safely in all 11 games this season, and in 21 straight games since Sept. 21.
He is now batting .333 this season, with a  .381 on-base percentage, and .429 slugging percentage.

Rays right-hander Alex Cobb gave up four runs (three earned) over 6 2/3 innings on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts. On a day when Buchholz was at his best, the Rays needed their starter to match that.

It was clear from Buchholz’s first pitch of the game that he would be dominant. He started with a called-strike first pitch to Desmond Jennings, and needed just three pitches to retire the Rays lead-off batter for the first of his career-high 11 strikeouts.
Buchholz needed just 10 pitches to get through the first inning. He threw seven for strikes and first-pitch strikes to the three batters he faced.

Red Sox starting pitchers now have a combined 2.07 ERA, allowing 15 earned runs over 65 1/3 innings. The win over the Rays was the seventh straight in which starting pitchers have allowed two or fewer runs.
Sox starters have held opponents to three or fewer runs in all 11 games this season, extending the longest such streak in team history to start a season. The previous streak was the first nine games in 1916.  It is the longest by an American League team since 1990 when the Brewers did so in 14 starts.
“I was sitting in my same spot [in the dugout]. I didn’t want to move. I didn't want to do anything [different]. My shirt was untucked for seven straight innings. I couldn’t tuck it back in.”

--catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, on the dugout scene while Buchholz had his no-hitter intact.