Strong outing, but no win for Buchholz

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Strong outing, but no win for Buchholz

BOSTON -- Through the first month of the season, Clay Buchholz proclaimed himself the only pitcher in Major League Baseball who was complaining about wins.

He went 3-1 in five starts in April, but had an ERA of 8.69, and hadn't allowed less than five runs in any of those outings. But he was getting enough offensive support to get him wins.

In his last two starts against the rival Tampa Bay Rays, it's been the opposite. Buchholz has been at his best, but in those two starts, he's 0-1.

Alfredo Aceves blew it for him on Sunday at Fenway Park. Buchholz finished the game having allowed just two runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out a season-best six batters.

When Buchholz left the mound after the top of the seventh, the Red Sox trailed 2-0. But thanks to Adrian Gonzalez' heroic three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, Buchholz was lined up for his team-leading fifth win of the season.

But Aceves blew it in the ninth, allowing a two-run home run to Sean Rodriguez that put the Rays ahead 4-3, which ended up being the final score, giving Buchholz a no-decision.

"Clay had a really good changeup, his fastball was explosive, I was very encouraged," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "He looked good. He looked good, and then gave up that second run. He was still throwing pretty good, I guess.

"I thought we were going to pull that one out and get him one he deserved. I thought he deserved a win today."

Buchholz was also disappointed that he hasn't got the results in his last two starts against the Rays, both this weekend and last week, when he allowed two runs in five innings while walking one and striking out five at the Trop.

"Nobody likes losing, but I was always told that you've got to be able to accept it sometimes," said Buchholz afterwards. "It's a tough loss there."

Buchholz was, however, encouraged with his changeup on Sunday. It's always been a strikeout pitch for him, and after searching for it for weeks, he feels he's finally made the proper progression with the pitch that allows him to confidently throw it in any count.

"I've been able to start trusting it again, and throwing it like I have in the past," said Buchholz.

"It's the pitch that always has been a strikeout pitch for me my whole career, in the minor leagues, up here," he added. "It's a pitch that I can throw behind in a count when it's good, and I can also throw it when I'm ahead in the count."

His catcher agreed.

"He went after guys, threw strikes, was able to throw strikes with his changeup, was able to get ahead with the fastball as well," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "But his changeup is so good that its tough to sit back and wait on it when hes throwing that fastball as hard as he does. So he did a great job, a great job all around."

Result aside, if you noticed anything else different with Buchholz on Sunday, it was the speed he was working at. Buchholz said that he made it a point to work quicker on Sunday, and that it was an area that came up before his previous start in Baltimore.

"I tried doing it in Baltimore," said Buchholz. "Just to get back on the mound, regardless of what pitch I just threw and the result of that pitch. And to keep my infielders on their toes, because I know, I've played the position before, and it's tough when you've got a guy out there taking forever to throw each pitch."

It seemed like it worked, and Buchholz put together another solid outing against the Rays. He just didn't get the end result he deserved.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Three Things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

1) It only seems like David Ortiz can come through every time.

When Ortiz comes to the plate as he did Friday night -- bases loaded, no out, bottom of the ninth, Red Sox trailing by a run -- it seems like a win is a fait accompli.

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one might have a chance to be ended right there,'' said John Farrell. "He's been so big for us that everybody in the dugout felt the same way -- confident that the stage was set for him to come through with another dramatic moment.''

Instead, Ortiz rolled over a ground ball to second, and with the Twins infield drawn in, it was enough to turn a 4-2-3 double play that took the starch out of the inning for the Sox.

If anything, though, the inning revealed how remarkable Ortiz has been so often. It's not easy to come through even most times, and it's certainly far from automatic.

"The pitcher (closer Brandon Kintzler) made good pitches,'' said Ortiz. "That's the name of the game. I'm always looking forward to something happening. It just doesn't work out all the time.''

2) Eduardo Rodriguez has his slider back.

When Rodriguez endured a rough stretch in late May and June, he seemed to all but abandon his slider, relying almost exclusively on his two-seam fastball and changeup.

But since returning from a stint in Pawtucket, Rodriguez has flashed the slider that made him so effective as a rookie last season.

"Since he's come back,'' said Farrell, "he's added much more depth. He's able to get to the back foot of some righthanders for some swing-and-miss. He was on the plate with three quality pitches for strikes tonight.''

"I feel like I can locate it better, where I want it,'' confirmed Rodriguez. "Outside, inside corner...I'm getting more confident in it. I think I got out of my mind the tipping (pitches) stuff and all that stuff and I'm just working to throw the ball right where I want it.''

It's almost impossible for a starter in the big leagues to survive with just two pitches, as Rodriguez was attempting to do earlier this season. And it seems foolish to even try, given that Rodriguez's slider can be a plus-pitch for him at times.

3) If Mookie Betts has to miss some time, the Red Sox have options in right field.

Farrell said Betts has been dealing with soreness and stiffness in his right knee since after the All-Star break and has been undergoing treatment.

There's no evidence that this is serious, and he's considered day-to-day. But even if Betts needs some time off, or in a worse-case scenario, has to go on the DL, the Sox can do some things with their outfield.

Michael Martinez's best outfield position is right, as he demonstrated Friday night after taking over for Betts in the top of the fifth. Martinez ran a long way to grab a ball in foul territory for the final out in the sixth, then turned in a fine, tumbling catch in the eighth to take extra bases away from Adam Grossman.

Bryce Brentz, who's been in a platoon of sorts in left with Brock Holt, has played a lot of right field in the minors and has the arm strength to play there.

Finally, there's the matter of Andrew Benintendi. The Sox raised some eyebrows with the news that they were having Benintendi move over to left field at Double A Portland, perhaps in anticipation of playing the position for Boston at some point later this year.

Benintendi is a natural center fielder and even though he doesn't much experience in right, if you're athletic enough to play center, you can usually move to either corner spot.

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES:

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one had a chance to be ended right there.'' - John Farrell on David Ortiz's at-bat with no out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

"I feel like I can locate it better - outside, inside corner -- so it's given me more confidence.'' - Eduardo Rodriguez on the improvement with his slider.

"I always look forward to something (good) happening; it just doesn't work out all the time.'' - David Ortiz on his ninth-inning at-bat.

NOTES:

* The Red Sox saw a seven-game winning streak at Fenway -- their longest of the season -- snapped.

* Boston has homered in 13 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox bullpen has posted a 1.17 ERA since July 6.

* Mookie Betts became the first Red Sox hitter to hit 20 homers in a season before he turns 24 since Nomar Garciaparra.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 30 straight games.

* The eight strikeouts posted by Eduardo Rodriguez were a season high and one shy of his career high.

* The loss was only the 15th this season in games in which the Red Sox score first.

* Rodriguez has not allowed an opposing baserunner to steal a base since July 5, 2015.

STARS:

1) Kyle Gibson

Don't let the 5.12 ERA he had coming in fool you. Gibson worked out a little jam in the first, then completely shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and one walk after the first.

2) Brian Dozier

Dozier homered in the second to tie the game, singled in the fourth, walked in the sixth and singled again in the eighth -- reaching base in all four plate appearances.

3) Miguel Sano

Sano invited trouble when he dropped a routine pop-up to allow the Red Sox to put the potential tying run on base in the eighth. But he had three base hits on the night, including a run-scoring double that put the Twins ahead to stay in the sixth.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam