McAdam: Buchholz out of luck so far this year

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McAdam: Buchholz out of luck so far this year

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE-- When Clay Buchholz took a big step forward in 2010 and finished with a 2.33 ERA, the second best among among qualifying starters in the American League, it seemed as though it was a culmination of sorts.

For years, Buchholz had exhbited signs that he was capable of becoming a front-line starter, but, frustratingly, wasn't able to put it together on a consistent basis.

His breakout season saw him finally make good on his potential.

But even as Buchholz was injecting himself into the Cy Young Award debate, there were sceptics. Buchholz, some warned, had an extraordinary BABIP (batting average for balls in play) of .261, some 34 points below the American League average of .295.

What that means was that Buchholz, while very good, was also very lucky at times. In another year, with at-bats resulting in the very same results, it's highly unlikely that Buchholz would record as many outs as he did on balls put in play.

Now, five starts in to 2011, the suspicion is growing. Or maybe it's just karma.

Buchholz allowed a career-high 12 hits Tuesday night as the Red Sox five-game winning streak was snapped in 4-1 loss to Baltimore. Though Buchholz had his first quality start Tuesday -- the last of the five Red Sox starters to record one -- he did not have a single 1-2-3 inning in the seven that he started. Buchholz owns the distinction of being the only Boston staritng pitcher in the last 11 games to allow more than two runs.

And he's done it twice.

Is this a preview of things to come? Is Buchholz about to pay for his good fortune of 2010 with a return to normalcy, and with it, a dropoff of in results in 2011?

(The Red Sox, apparently, are undeterred. Though no front office is more intrigued by peripheral statistics or open to sabermetrics, they felt confident enough to lavish Buchholz with a 30 million contract extension earlier this month).

The caprcious nature of results was evident when Buchholz, unprompted, suggested that his stuff Tuesday night (producing four runs on 12 hits over 6 23 innings) was better than his stuff last Wednesday afternoon in Oakland when he allowed just one run on six hits over 5 13 innings.

"And I got a win out of the start in Oakland," noted Buchholz.

Buchholz's start Tuesday -- or the four which preceded it -- shouldn't necessarily be cause for alarm. Though he did have a parade of baserunners (two per inning), three of the four Orioles runs came on sacrifice flies and a fourth on a well-placed roller to first which kicked off the bag before Adrian Gonzalez could intercept it.

Had Buchholz better executed his two-seam fastball on a few at-bats, he perhaps could have gotten groundouts instead of run-scoring flyouts. The pitcher himself conceded -- and Francona agreed -- that he needed to do a better job throwing inside to hitters and not them extend their hands on pitches out over the plate.

If there was one refreshing aspect of Buchholz's start, it was improved command. Buchholz had averaged four walks per start in his first four outings and Tuesday night, he had just two.

"When Clay gets on a roll," said Terry Francona, "he really goes with that. And he hasn't got there yet. I see his battling, I see his stuff being good."

Maybe even as good as last year. But not, perhaps unsurprisingly, yielding the kind of results he got a season ago.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

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Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

Quotes, notes, and stars from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Yankees.

QUOTES:

* "He gathered himself and got a little rhythm as the night went along.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That's a rarity for Betances to leave his breaking ball up like he did. Once David saw it up, he attacked.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz's game-winning homer.

* "There's no sign of him slowing down. Tonight is a prime example of it. Key moment, big hit when we need it. There's a long resume there and it's continuing to build.'' - Farrell on Ortiz's ability to deliver in the clutch.

* "There were some mechanical adjustments that I made. I came out a little erratic, trying to do too much, maybe focusing too much. But as game went on, I kind of got into a rhythm.'' - Owens on his start.

* "I saw him throw a lot of breaking pitches to Mookie. The one they hit stayed up a little longer than usual. He's the kind of pitcher that, if you go up there looking for everything he's got, you're done.'' - Ortiz on his game-winning homer off Dellin Betances.

NOTES:

* Over his career, David Ortiz has hit 29 go-ahead homers from the eighth inning on.

* Ortiz has eight homers in his last 24 games against the Yankees.

* The win was the first this season for the Red Sox in a game in which they were tied or trailing after seven innings.

* The Red Sox have won five of their last six and seven of their last 10.

* The Yankees have been limited to three runs or fewer in their last six games.

* In 21 games, the Yankees have faced 10 lefty starters; in 22 games, the Red Sox have faced two.

* Masahiro Tanaka has issued just one walk in his last three starts.

STARS:

1) David Ortiz

With one swing of the bat, Ortiz untied a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth with a game-winning two-run homer.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley's penchant for delivering a big hit continued as he rapped a two-run double to left in the seventh to erase a 2-0 Yankee lead.

3) Masahiro Tanaka

He shut the Red Sox for six innings before allowing three hits and two runs in the seventh.

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

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First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over New York Yankees...

* David Ortiz still has a flair for the dramatic.

Matched against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Ortiz cracked a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. Ortiz now has 18 RBI in 23 games -- he didn't start in four of those games - and at 40, remains the one hitter opposing teams want to face with the game on the line.

Before the homer, Ortiz was 0-for-7 against Betances, with four strikeouts.

* All things considered, Henry Owens did OK.

Owens didn't fool anybody. He couldn't command his fastball, and when the Yankees did hit it, they hit it pretty hard. He walked three and hit another. But Owens managed to limit the damage in a big way, allowing just two hits in six innings despite 10 baserunners.

Occasionally, he would get bailed out by his changeup, which seems to be the lone pitch he has that is better than average by major league standards.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to hit when it counts.

Bradley got the Red Sox offense going with a two-run, two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka, when the Sox were down to their final seven outs.

In the last week along, Bradley hit an extra-inning homer; a solo homer that represented the only run of the game; a ninth-inning triple; and Friday's big two-base hit.

That he has 10 RBI from the bottom of the order suggests he can provide some sock from that spot.

* Matt Barnes continues to make strides.

Since allowing a homer to Kevin Kiermaier on the last homestand, Barnes has allowed just one run in his last four appearances, covering 6 1/3 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average (5-for-24).

* The Yankees bullpen gets all the attention, but in relief of Owens, Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel faced nine hitters and retired them all.