BOSTON -- Nine starts into his season, it's as if a flip was switched for Clay Buchholz. In reality, he finally has a grip on things. After a no-decision in Baltimore on May 21, his ERA was a bloated 7.84, he had walked as many hitters as he had struck out and he was averaging more than a homer allowed per start. There was talk that he might be sent back to the minor leagues. At the very least, his spot in the Red Sox starting rotation seemed in jeopardy. Ever since then, however, Buchholz has looked much more like the pitcher who showed such great promise in 2010. Buchholz tossed a complete game shutout Thursday night against the Orioles, and over his last three starts, he's compiled a 1.50 ERA. He's averaged eight innings in those starts and has 19 strikeouts in his last three starts. Buchholz attributes the turnaround to a different grip on his changeup, which can be his best pitch. "The changeup is a big pitch for me,'' said Buchholz after the Red Sox blanked the Orioles, 7-0. "I'm able to throw that to get back into the count or get ahead in the count. The only adjustment was the grip. I think my grip was a little off. I've been able to free that up a little bit. It's just been a pitch that we've tried to work on for a long time and I noticed it wasn't the same grip that I had in past years. "Now it's coming back.'' So, too, is Buchholz. Through the first nine starts of the season, he had pitched through the seventh just once; in his last three outings, he's made it through seven each time. And thanks in part to the changeup, his strikeout totals are up. In his first nine starts, Buchholz never fanned more than five. In his last three starts, meanwhile, he's fanned at least six. Thursday's effort was his best yet. He threw 125 pitches, a season high, but was in command until the end. "It was spectacular,'' said an appreciative Bobby Valentine of his starter's outing. "He had all of his pitches from the get-go. I thought his changeup and his arm speed on his changeup was spectacular. He threw some splits and his curveball was very active. "When you have control of the fastball and you're throwing in 93-94 mph, the changeup, split and curveball, you've got a good chance of winning.'' Valentine noted that the movement on Buchholz's pitches has induced hitters to swing early in the count, giving the pitcher a big advantage. "They don't want to get behind with that curveball that he has,'' said Valentine. "When you're talented and your stuff's working for you, it's easy to be confident because it's tough to hit that stuff.'' A few weeks back, there wasn't much success and even less confidence. But thanks to some work and adjustments, Buchholz has that swagger back on the mound. "This game's not easy,'' said Buchholz. "There's a lot of guys really good at this game who struggle. And there's a lot of guys who are really, really good who don't struggle. It's been a few slight adjustments and trying to focus on the next pitch instead of what just happened to the last hitter.''
The Red Sox are reportedly interested in the Atlanta Braves' Julio Teheran, so Marc Bertand and Tim Britton look at some roster options.
Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:
* “(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.
* 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.
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 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