BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz thought he was done.
With runners on first and third with one out in the ninth inning of a 3-3 game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine came strolling out to the mound at Fenway Park.
Thinking nothing of it, Buchholz extended his arm and began to place the baseball in the hands of Valentine, while taking a step towards the dugout. For this wasn't the pitching coach coming out to talk this over. This was the manager coming to make a pitching change, so he thought.
But Valentine never took the ball, and Buchholz' day wasn't over. But the decision certainly was up to him.
"I just wanted to make sure he believed -- like I did -- that he had enough," said Valentine after the game. "And he said, 'Guaranteed.'"
"I thought he was coming out to get me, and he was like, 'I'm just coming to check on how you're doing,'" said Buchholz. "And I was like, 'Go back to the dugout, and I'll try to get a ground ball double play right here.'"
That never happened.
After the mound visit, Anthony Gose stole second, and after falling behind in the count and first base open, Buchholz intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Kelly Johnson to load the bases and face Omar Vizquel with one out.
And Vizquel took an 0-2 cutter the other way to left field, that scored Rajai Davis on a sacrifice fly, to give the Toronto Blue Jays a 4-3 lead, which then ended Buchholz' night, and ended up being the game-winning run.
"It was supposed to be a cutter in," said Buchholz after the 4-3 loss. "And I didn't get it in."
"All year long, Clay's been totally honest with me," said Valentine. "After eight innings he felt great. So, he wasn't really stressed there in the ninth."
Buchholz finished the game having thrown 121 pitches and allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four in 8 23 innings. It marked his sixth loss of the season.
"He kept making good pitches," said Valentine after the loss. "He just kept making good pitches the whole night. They scored three runs in that fourth inning where they had their fast runners on, and they hit balls off the end of the bat. A single to left, a short sac fly. Only guys on their lineup that can score on a sac fly. He made good pitches the whole night. He deserved better."
It comes a day after Valentine called out his struggling rotation, saying, "Guys are tired of playing from behind, I'll guarantee you that," following a Saturday night loss that saw Daisuke Matsuzaka pulled in the second inning after spotting the Blue Jays five runs.
If there is anyone on the Red Sox pitching staff that has given them their best chance to not play from behind, it's Buchholz. And his first three scoreless innings proved just that, as Boston took a 2-0 lead into the fourth.
Buchholz then gave up three runs. Nothing was hit too hard though. And it wasn't like Buchholz was getting racked. Because he then retired 13 in a row, up until Davis' single in the ninth with one out. David eventually scored the game-winning run on Vizquel's sacrifice fly.
But Buchholz was glad to see Valentine not take him out of the game, when he walked out to the mound in the ninth. If a run was going to score, it was going to be against Buchholz. He just didn't execute. But at least, throughout the game, he did something that the Red Sox' other starters haven't. he gave them a chance to win.
"We're trying to get deep into games, and that's sort of what I've been preaching for the last three months or so," said Buchholz after the loss. "So it's good to see him come out to the mound and not already have the call on someone else to come in."