Buchholz improves to 11-0 after solid outing

Buchholz improves to 11-0 after solid outing
September 16, 2013, 1:45 am
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BOSTON – It was a shaky start for Clay Buchholz Sunday night against the Yankees at Fenway Park. He needed 22 pitches, just 14 for strikes, to get through the first inning.
 
The right-hander walked Curtis Granderson, the first batter he faced. With Alex Rodriguez, the next batter, at the plate, Buchholz’s errant pick-off attempt allowed Granderson to advance to third. Rodriguez’s groundout to Stephen Drew at shortstop scored Granderson.
 
Perhaps this would be the game in which Buchholz’s unblemished record would fall and his stellar ERA would rise.
 
Instead, Buchholz – given a 3-1 lead by his offense after the first inning – made some adjustments and shut the Yankees down the rest of way. He still struggled with some command issues – four walks, to tie a season high, a wild pitch, and a hit batter – but he contained the Yankees batters, limiting them to two hits and the one run – unearned – over six innings, to earn the win, as the Sox thrashed the Yankees, 9-2. Buchholz improved 11-0 lowering his ERA from 1.61 to 1.51.
 
"He threw the ball well,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Maybe didn't have his best stuff command-wise but made some big pitches when he needed to. I think he was getting some velocity, curveball was still sharp. But he couldn't get an off-speed going for a strike. Felt pretty good with his cutter so we were going with that a a lot."

Since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday at Tampa Bay, Buchholz has pitched a combined 11 innings, giving up one run, no earned runs, on five hits and five walks with nine strikeouts.
 
“It wasn’t  as simple as the last time out, battling some command issues there early,” Buchholz said. “I felt like as the game went on I got stronger as far as the command stuff was. The best inning that I felt in was the last inning that I threw. So that was a good sign for me. But other than that, I just battled my way through it. It wasn’t pretty but came out with the win.”
 
“Felt good overall, felt like velocity was overall better today, just command wasn’t quite there. So yeah, just after every start there’s something you can work on and get better.
 
“Physically I feel really good, just battling some command stuff. That’s all that was wrong with me tonight.”
 
And even that wasn’t too bad.
 
It was his 11th quality start in 14 outings this season. But this one wasn’t as easy as some of his others. He had runners on base in four of his six innings, including the lead-off batters in all four of those innings, with three walks and a hit batter. Key double plays in two of those frames helped to snuff out any New York rallies. He got the always dangerous Robinson Cano to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the third.
 
"Not as sharp as his last time out but he has such an ability to manipulate the baseball and make a pitch in key spots,” said manager John Farrell. “A couple of ground ball double plays. He created a little ... opportunities for them by himself by the lead-off walks on a few occasions but he never gives in, whether it's a cutter or a changeup a curveball, big curveball ground ball double play to Cano for the one ground ball double play ... But more importantly we got him through six innings. We got him up over 90 pitches and that was somewhat of the objective tonight -- in  addition to going out and giving us a chance to win."
 
Despite his command issues, Buchholz never seemed to get rattled, maintaining his poise throughout.
 
"Large in part because he's got four pitches he can go to in any count,” Farrell said  “He's got the ability to manipulate the ball and move it off the bat head in those fastball counts, whether it's a cutter or a sinker, and I think he never feels like he's at a disadvantage because of his ability to do just that -- to execute big pitches when he's behind in the count or when there's men on base."
 
After a quick consultation with pitching coach Juan Nieves after the first inning, Buchholz knew what he was doing wrong.
 
“Maybe coming out of my delivery a little bit, especially the windup,” he said. “Sort of falling toward home plate and not falling back, and I think that was a big key especially for the fastball pitches.”
 
And with three runs from his offense in the first – including a two-run home run from Mike Napoli – Buchholz had plenty of cushion to work with.
 
“Having one-run games, or down by one, haven’t scored a run yet, it’s tough to pitch because you don’t want to make a mistake,” he said. “But when you have a cushion, you just try to get ahead of the guys and get them in pitchers’ counts and make them mis-hit the ball or swing and miss. That’s what the game’s all about.”
 
While the Sox went 13-6 against the Yankees this season, Buchholz was just as dominant against New York. He went 3-0 with an ERA of 0.50, giving up just one earned run in 18.0 combined innings.
 
Buchholz is the second Sox pitcher in team history to start a season going at least 11-0 in his first 14 starts, with Roger Clemens who went 14-0 in 1986. Buchholz’s string of 11 straight wins is the second-longest winning streak this season, behind the Tigers’ Max Scherzer’s 13-game win streak to start the season. It is also tied for the second longest win streak to start a season by a Sox pitcher, with Roger Moret in 1973, behind only Clemens’ ’86 start.
 
Clemens won the Cy Young Award and the AL MVP, leading the Sox to the AL pennant.
 
Buchholz would certainly be in the running for the AL Cy Young if he had not lost three months to injury, posting similar numbers all season.
 
While it’s difficult not to think of the what-if’s, Farrell hasn’t let his mind go there.
 
"No. Not at all,” he said. “He started out one of the best pitchers in baseball and unfortunately his season was interrupted with the three months’ down time. But the beauty of this team is that it's a collective group -- it's not about individual accolades or awards or acknowledgments, it's about what we hope to continue to work towards and achieve."