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Buchholz looks to bounce back after rough outing

Right-hander allows five runs over 6 1/3 innings vs. Rays
MLB.com

BOSTON -- For a few days last week, the struggling Red Sox rotation appeared to be on the brink of a turnaround, producing three consecutive quality starts from Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley. But in the wake of another sub-par outing from Clay Buchholz, Boston's 5-1 loss at Fenway Park seemed to once again highlight the club's starting pitching woes.

Buchholz shouldered his fourth defeat of the season on Monday, leaving the game with five runs charged against him as the Rays scattered nine hits over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander eventually settled down as the game wore on, allowing just two hits over his final 3 1/3 innings after surrendering four runs in his first two, but the early hole proved too much for the lineup to surmount.

Full Game Coverage

BOSTON -- For a few days last week, the struggling Red Sox rotation appeared to be on the brink of a turnaround, producing three consecutive quality starts from Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley. But in the wake of another sub-par outing from Clay Buchholz, Boston's 5-1 loss at Fenway Park seemed to once again highlight the club's starting pitching woes.

Buchholz shouldered his fourth defeat of the season on Monday, leaving the game with five runs charged against him as the Rays scattered nine hits over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander eventually settled down as the game wore on, allowing just two hits over his final 3 1/3 innings after surrendering four runs in his first two, but the early hole proved too much for the lineup to surmount.

Full Game Coverage

"Whenever things aren't going good, you don't get breaks," said Buchholz. "We're scuffling a little bit right now. But we got a lot of good players in here. I'm pretty confident that everybody thinks we're going to bounce back."

Buchholz's undoing stemmed from a pair of not-so-timely plays. One came in the first inning, when Hanley Ramirez injured himself trying to make a catch in left field. James Loney was credited with a double, and Tampa Bay put up two runs on ensuing two-out hits by Evan Longoria and David DeJesus.

Video: TB@BOS: Hanley exits game, no-catch confirmed in 1st

In the following frame, Buchholz left an 0-1 changeup to Joey Butler out over the plate, and the Rays' rookie deposited it in the Monster seats for a two-run homer.

Video: TB@BOS: Butler launches his first big league homer

"I thought the first couple of runs [were] some freak plays," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We challenged the play where Hanley crashes into the wall. They've changed the rule on an official catch, and if there's no immediate or simultaneous collision with the wall they show a ball in the grass, it's ruled a catch. We had it as four strides before he hit the wall."

Buchholz's outing was emblematic of an overarching trend in his puzzling season. He fanned seven batters while issuing only two walks, and he has averaged 11.49 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 2.87 walks per nine across six starts. His unsightly 6.03 ERA, however, does not seem to reflect the other numbers.

Is it simply a case of poor luck, as implied by opposing batters' .407 average on balls put in play?

"You try to throw a lot of strikes, not walk guys," Buchholz said. "It seems like whenever you do make a mistake, they capitalize on it. I felt pretty good on all my pitches tonight. I gave up a couple hits that were mislocation, but I gave up a couple hits that were pitches right where I wanted."

Underlying factors aside, the Red Sox -- losers of four straight and 3-9 since April 22 -- realize that the rotation's current rate of production simply cannot support a winning season. The collective 5.73 ERA from its starters will need to improve sooner rather than later.

"We can't think that going into every game we're going to put up seven or eight runs. That doesn't happen in this league," Farrell said. "It is on our starting pitchers to create some stability to hopefully have us sustain any kind of run to put a streak together."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz