BOSTON With the struggles this season of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the Red Sox had begun to count on Clay Buchholz to be their ace. To get them wins.And why not? He entered Tuesdays game against the Angels with a record of 11-3, leading the staff in wins. In 13 starts since May 21, Buchholz was 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA, while the Sox were 10-3 in those games. In that stretch, he held opponents to a .217 batting average, .276 on-base percentage, and .356 slugging percentage. In 95 23 innings in that span, he had 68 strikeouts compared to 22 walks. Additionally, since the start of 2011, he was 9-2 in 18 starts after a loss. And, he had just one loss in his last 16 starts at Fenway Park since April 15, 2011, going 8-1 in that span, 6-1 this season. In five career starts against the Angels at Fenway, he was 4-1 with a 3.98 ERA.So, the question is: What happened to that guy?Buchholz lasted just 5 13 innings Tuesday night against the Angels. He matched career highs with seven earned runs allowed and 12 hits allowed. He was one shy of his career high with seven runs allowed. He also gave up a walk and a home run, with three strikeouts. He took the loss, falling to 11-4 as his ERA rose to 4.47.I thought Clay had pretty good stuff tonight, just they hit some good pitches, said manager Bobby Valentine. And he was in the middle of the plate with a couple of pitches and maybe a little higher than hes been normally. So it was all about location and probably he was missing his location.With the loss, Buchholz fell to 4-1 in five starts against the Angels since the beginning of the 2010 season. Before this game, he had given up just seven earned runs in 26 13 innings in that span.I think I made a couple of bad pitches and they hit them, said Buchholz. Im not really disappointed in anything.With seven earned runs, Buchholz matched the total of his previous five starts, spanning 39 innings, in which he was 3-0. The difference in this game?Balls left up in the zone, he said. Can't throw pitches consistently up there and expect to get away with it against a team like that. The other side of it, I thought I made a lot of good pitches that they got their bat to and found a hole for it. So I felt really good. Just too many pitches up and they made me pay for it, I guess.There was a couple of balls hit pretty hard but when you make pitches that are off the plate and they found a way to get a bat to it and get runs across the plate that way, it leaves a little bad taste in your mouth, for sure.Said one scout in attendance:The quality of Buchholzs pitches was good, but his usage of his pitches was questionable. He had some strange pitch sequences and did not use his fastball enough. He may be trying to throw too many different pitches, and may need to simplify his approach. The Angels had a solid approach at the plate and used the whole field well.Buchholz said he felt no additional pressure since becoming the de facto ace of the staff.No. I mean, I've just been going out there with the sole purpose of trying to get deep in the games and trying to get some quick outs here and there and try to get the team back in the dugout to get to the plate, he said. You could throw any of the other four guys we have out here and they could do the same thing that I've been doing. Its happened to be me for the last couple of weeks but anybody could take that.With the firing Monday of pitching coach Bob McClure, who was replaced by Randy Niemann, Buchholz is now working with his fourth pitching coach in three seasons. That turnover, he said, has not been a disruption.Not really, said Buchholz. I think all of them have been good to me. Ive had a pretty good relationship with all the pitching coaches weve had and I think theyre more there for guidance. If they see you doing something wrong over an extended period of time theyre the guys that sort of give you a little bit of notice and some direction on what you need to do but consistency is the key, especially with pitching. Youve got to be able to repeat deliveries and arm slot and everything and that comes with feel and that comes with confidence. So theyve all been good. Theyve all been around baseball for a long time so I dont see it being a problem.Buchholz was making the 100th appearance of his career and had a chance to earn his 47th career win. He would have been the first Sox pitcher with that many wins in his first 100 games since Roger Clemens had 56 in 1984-87. Instead, he falls to 6-2 with a 4.61 ERA at Fenway this season, while the Sox fall to 29-36.I dont think theres a rhyme or reason to the Sox struggles at home, he said. Its just the way its happening right now. I think a lot of guys are going up to the plate and thinking they have to do something right now and when you're losing thats just the way it goes. When you're winning you normally think about yourself and just go out there and hit and pitch. So its different for me, being here the last four or five years and always winning. So its a little bit different than everybody.You expect to play well at home. You expect to play everywhere but especially at home knowing that its sold out here every time we play here and its frustrating that it hasnt been going the way we want it to go. But youve got to find a way to get through it.
Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis.
Looks like I won't be allowed to visit Japan for the next 4 years. 😂😂😂 https://t.co/BCGnvpFWLh— Kevin Youkilis (@KYouk_2036) December 9, 2016
Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time.
The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.
Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball.
US ambassador to Japan?
Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.
The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons.
When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team."
Would he be interested?
"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.
Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.
Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.