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.''
BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.
In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.
Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.
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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game.
It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.
They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors.
The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.
Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.
But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.
Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.
At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.
Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.
The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.
But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.
The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.
The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.
If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.
BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.
Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.
It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.
In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.
"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."
With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.
"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."
The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.
The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.
Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).
Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.
The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.
No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.
The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.
"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.
Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.