Clay Buchholz: Ace by default

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Clay Buchholz: Ace by default

These days, its easy to forget just how bad Clay Buchholz was at the beginning of this season.

Actually, no its not.

Imagine Byung-Hyun Kims poise with John Wasdins overpowering fastball.

Through six starts, Buchholz had given up 33 earned runs over 32.2 innings a Lackey-esque 9.09 ERA. He had 19 walks, and only 20 strike outs. The most ridiculous number? In those first six starts, Buchholz served up 10 home runs. This, after giving up 10 total in 14 starts last year, and only nine in 28 starts in 2010.

He was also 3-1, but that was a joke. Just goes to show how meaningless W-L record is, we said after every start.

What was wrong?

We never really got an answer. But in retrospect, its clear that Clay was just a little rusty. He hadnt started a game since June 16, and you can imagine how back surgery might mess with a pitchers head. Im sure it takes some time to re-discover that Major League mentality.

Or maybe Buchholz is just a slow starter in general?

After all, on the heels of his stellar 2010 when he went 17-7 with a 2.30 ERA and seemed to finally turn the corner on his path to stardom Clay was 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA in five April starts last year. He was awful.

But over his next nine outings, he went 5-0 (the Sox went 8-1) with 2.67 ERA. He gave up more than two runs in a start only twice. He was dominant . . . before back issues and the Sox bogus medical staff derailed his season. We tend to think of 2011 as a disappointing year for Buchholz, but thats only because he was injured. When he pitched, he was great.

And now hes back. After giving up 33 earned runs over those first six starts, Buchholz has allowed only 29 in 12 starts since. After giving up 10 home runs in his first six starts, hes surrendered only six in 12 starts since. Buchholz is 6-2 since May 6, and as we know, that can be deceiving. But whats not deceiving is his 3.15 ERA, his 2.59 KBB ratio and his 1.11 WHIP.

Right now, there's no debate: Buchholz is the best and most reliable pitcher on this Red Sox staff. If the season was riding on one game, hes the guy youd want with the ball.

He's the ace.

And that's too bad, because you know what? He'd make an even better No. 3. And that's what this is supposed to be. Lester, Beckett and Buchholz.

In the words of Tommy Heinsohn: "Bing, Bang, Boom!"

These days, it's just boom. And as great as it is to see Buchholz back pitching at this level, you can't help but fear that it's all going to waste. While it's uplifting that there's finally a guy on the staff who you'd feel comfortable calling on in an important game, you know that without Beckett and Lester, there will be no important games. The Sox will never get closer than they are today, and Clay's resurgence will be lost in another off-season of silly drama.

Tonight at Fenway, one half of the ambiguously talented duo will attempt to finally start living up to his end of the bargain: Josh Beckett vs. Justin Verlander.

Now there's an ace.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar