Buchholz takes big step forward

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Buchholz takes big step forward

BOSTON -- It wasn't Clay Buchholz' longest outing of the season, but it was his best.

The righty picked up his team-leading fourth win of the season while allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings on Friday night to lead the Red Sox to a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Fenway Park.

The win snapped a three-game losing skid for Boston, while Buchholz snapped a skid of six-consecutive starts in which he allowed five or more earned runs.

"In my humble opinion, he had better movement tonight, than I've seen him with," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win.

After getting out of a first-inning jam, Buchholz cruised through to the seventh inning. Entering that seventh inning, Buchholz allowed just one run on six hits and a pair of walks.

That one run gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and for a moment, it looked as if Buchholz was going to continue that streak of allowing at least five runs a game.

After recording the first two outs in the top of the first, Buchholz walked Asdrubal Cabrera and then let up a two-out single to Travis Hafner. Cabrera then scored on Carlos Santana's single down the right-field line.

Buchholz then hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch to load the bases. The sudden turn of events forced Valentine to make a mound visit of his own.

"I didn't want him to let that game get away from him because of anything other than him being as good as he can possibly be," said Valentine when asked what he said to Buchholz in that mound visit.

"I just wanted Clay to understand that I believed in him, and everybody behind him thought he was a good pitcher. Prove it to the guys in front of him."

"It was good," said Buchholz. "He basically just came out there and said, 'You know what, you need to get your stuff right and go after these guys and get these guys out so that we can get into the dugout and win a ballgame.'"

Buchholz got the next batter -- Michael Brantley -- to ground out to end the inning, and it was an out that he said gave him a big-time confidence booster, which led to only four Indians hits and no runs in the next five innings.

"He was breaking left-handers' bats. We haven't seen that," said Valentine. "They were hitting it off the end. He was getting in on them, snapping them in half. It indicates to me that his ball had that action that we needed to have for him to be successful."

Buchholz said that he had never pitched to a lineup that featured all lefties, and because of that, he called the experience "mentally draining," and the hard-hitting lineup forced him to have just his second-career game with no strikeouts.

But Buchholz was able to get through to the seventh inning, where he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Rich Hill came in to relieve Buchholz after throwing 111 pitches. He and Andrew Miller were on the mound to allow the next three runs that were all added to Buchholz' stat line.

"Now he can look at his record of four wins, and say that he's really building on something," said Valentine. "He's coming off a good outing, next time he walks out there."

Not just good, his best of 2012.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.