MINNEAPOLIS -- Clay Buchholz cruised through the first two innings, Friday night at Target Field. He needed just 28 pitches (18 strikes) to retire the first six batters he faced, the last five on strikeouts.
The Sox offense gave the right-hander a slim one-run lead in the first when Daniel Nava singled with one out off Twins starter Vance Worley, taking second on a throwing error by second baseman Brian Dozier. With two outs, David Ortiz’ single to right scored Nava.
But Buchholz was not involved in the decision. He went seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks with nine strikeouts and a home run. He threw 110 pitches, 72 strikes, as his ERA went from 1.69 to 1.78.
He retired the first six batters he faced, the final five in that stretch on strikeouts. He gave up two runs in the third, giving up his first home run since April 3. He struggled over the next two innings with runners on base in each inning, but kept the Twins off the scoreboard, retiring the final eight batters he faced.
Trevor Plouffe opened the third with a double off Buchholz. After Buchholz got Aaron Hicks to ground out to Dustin Pedroia, he gave up a first-pitch, two-run home run to Twins No. 9 batter Pedro Florimon on a curveball into the seats near the right field foul pole. It was just the first home run Buchholz had allowed since his first start of the season, April 3 in Yankee Stadium. It was also just Florimon’s second home run of the season, both against the Sox.
“Well if you want to go look at it, not really a bad pitch,” he said. “Good pitch, maybe wrong spot to use it in. It was actually a better pitch than I was wanting to throw. I was just trying to flip a strike over and he did what hitters get paid to do, and that’s drop the head to the ball and he got it.
“But overall, felt pretty good. There was a two-inning stretch of not being real comfortable for some reason and couldn’t put a finger on it. But, was able to get out of a couple of big situations without giving up any more damage than the home run. it doesn’t always happen that way, but fortunately enough tonight was able to do that. Hand it over to the guys in the bullpen and came out with the win.”
Buchholz worked into and out of a couple of jams after that. With two outs in the fourth, he issued back-to-back walks to Ryan Doumit and Oswaldo Arcia. After a visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves, Buchholz struck out Plouffe, ending the threat.
He had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth on two singles and a walk, before getting out of the inning, striking out Josh Willingham and getting Justin Morneau to fly out.
The strikeout of Willingham started a stretch of Buchholz retiring the final eight batters he faced, and Sox pitchers retiring the final 17 Twins batters in the game.
“There was nowhere else to put him so you got to throw strikes,” Buchholz said. “I use all my pitches every time I go out there and pitch. So the confidence behind throwing a cutter in a fastball count, or throwing a fastball in a fastball count comes along with being able to throw those pitches for strikes. I was doing that early in the game and then I lost it for a little bit. That was a pint in the game where I was either going to walk a run in or get him to make weak contact on not make any contact tall. I was fortunate enough, made a good pitch, to get the second strike call, it might have been up but sometimes you get the benefit of the doubt on that and then I made a really good pitch on the next one to strike him out with the cutter. So that was a grind that inning and the inning before that. But like I said, find a way to get through it.”
Manager John Farrell was pleased with Buchholz’s performances.
“He makes the one first pitch breaking ball to Florimon that he drops the bat head for the two run homer, but other than that he makes a number of big pitches,” Farrell said. “He created a little bit of a situation for himself with a couple of the walks. But as we’ve seen he keeps the game under control and continues to make pitches, and kept us in the game with just the two runs allowed.”