BOSTON - Clay Buchholz' Friday night start at Fenway Park falls perfectly in line with his last start on Sunday in Houston - despite the All-Star Break this week.
And with the way he's been pitching lately, nobody would have it any other way.
In three July starts, Buchholz is 1-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 0.63 WHIP over 22.1 IP. He's allowed five runs and two home runs, while striking out 21 and walking just one.
In his last start - the team's last game before the All-Star Break - he pitched a complete game three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. It was obviously his best start of the season and the best sign that the Buchholz who pitched masterfully in the first half of the 2013 season may be back.
The biggest reason? He's got his go-to pitch, the changeup, working for him.
"Just coming off my last three starts I felt really good physically," Buchholz said. "I guess in the Chicago start, that's when my changeup started coming back later in the game. I guess it was the third pitch I threw the other night and it felt really good too. Like I said earlier, it's a pitch that if I can throw in command whenever I need to, you know you're always going to miss a little bit every now and then, but if I can for the most part throw it 75-80-percent strikes when I throw it, I feel like that's a big pitch for me."
"If we go off his most recent start," John Farrell said, "it was efficient, it was powerful . . . What we've seen since he came off the DL is there's been steady improvement in each of the four starts he's made."
Buchholz will face the Kansas City Royals Friday night. The expected Royals batter have a combined .288 average against him with two home runs in 52 at-bats. Buchholz has struck them out 11 times.
Since he went the distance on Sunday, he'll have pitched the final pitch of the last game, and the first pitch of the last game. According to Elias, the last Red Sox starting pitcher to start two consecutive games was Hideo Nomo on Sept. 9 and Sept. 18, 2001, surrounding the events of September 11. Nomo only lasted 5.1 innings during the Sept. 9 start, making Buchholz's feat more impressive.
So while Buchholz pitches on his normal schedule without any extra days off during the All-Star break, he still feels rested and ready to go.
"The break by not having to come to the field for a couple days was a break enough," Buchholz said. "But I was still able to pick up a ball and mess around a little bit without coming in here six hours before a game and doing the whole schpeal. But I feel like I got a rest even though I'm really not getting a break."
He gets the chance to start the Sox off on the right foot in the second half of the season, and start chipping away at that 9.5-game defect in the Al East. Buchholz shares what Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said earlier Thursday on WEEI that the team is not ready to concede the season.
"I wouldn't find any reason to concede unless we were 25 out right now which is obviously not the case," Buchholz said. "At some points it felt like it. But we got a good group of guys. Things have to happen right. You got to make your breaks sometimes, and it's been tough to make our breaks that first half. Showed some big signs of life and then had a couple lulls in-between.
"It's just a matter of guys coming back, taking a deep breath and not thinking that it's the end of the world if we don't win today. We got to go out and win tomorrow. There's always another game until they say we don't have any more games, so that's how we're going to treat it."