Buchholz gets knocked around in first start since June 16

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Buchholz gets knocked around in first start since June 16

DETROIT -- The Red Sox' pitching problems aren't limited to the back end of their bullpen.

For the second straight game Sunday, they had to deal with a poor outing from their starting pitcher. On Saturday, it was Josh Beckett, who was blasted for five homers in a 10-0 loss.

On Sunday, it was a sub-par effort from Clay Buchholz, who was making his first start since last June 16, having missed the entire second half of the 2011 season with a stress fracture in his lower back.

Buchholz was tagged for four runs in the first inning -- setting the tone for the day -- another in the second and two more in the fourth.

He was lifted after that, having needed 78 pitches to record just a dozen outs. Unlike Beckett, he didn't have any issues with the long ball and only two of the eight hits against him were for extra bases.

But the effect was still the same: the Sox had to overcome the hole that Buchholz had dug for them, and they were into the bullpen far too soon.

"You know, I felt really good," said Buchholz. "It's just a matter of wanting to keep the ball in the park because the wind was blowing out and I did that. But it just seemed that every time they made contact, the ball either found a hole or was just out of the reach of somebody in the infield."

One problem for Buchholz was not being able to put some hitters away when he was well ahead in the count. In the first inning alone, two Tigers who were behind 0-and-2 to Buchholz managed to connect for big hits.

"I've just got to do a better job of getting guys out and avoiding the big innings," said Buchholz.

Catcher Kelly Shoppach thought that Buchholz was the victim of some bad luck on the field, and, perhaps, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Nothing was wrong with him," said Shoppach. "They're a hot team -- it seemed like all hot. In this series, it seemed like they might have had 10 or 12 ground ball base hits and some broken bats fell in. They have some good hitters over there and they squared us up when we made mistakes.

"Clay threw the ball fine. He had pretty good stuff. He got burned a couple of times in big situations, but I thought he was pretty good today."

Said manager Bobby Valentine: "It didn't seem like he had a great feel for his curveball, so he went to his changeup and that got hit a couple of times . . . It's something he'll improve on."

Sunday marked the first time in his last 42 starts that Buchholz had given up more than five earned runs. Given the way the rest of the staff is going, he picked a bad time to see his streak come to an end.

"It's not the way you wanted to start," Buchholz said. "When this team scores 12 runs in a game, it should be a 100-percent win."

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

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Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK - Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.