After rough Game 2 outing, righty studies Lackey's approach against Tigers
DETROIT -- Clay Buchholz will have an opportunity to secure the Red Sox a trip to the World Series when he takes the mound against the Tigers on Saturday in a crucial Game 6 at Fenway Park.
The situation couldn't be any more ideal for Buchholz, who is searching for redemption after suffering through a disappointing outing earlier in the series. He surrendered a season-high five runs in Game 2, but a bounce-back performance would completely erase those bad memories.
Boston heads into that potential deciding game with a 3-2 lead in the American League Championship Series, and Buchholz knows all too well that he'll need to up his performance if the Red Sox are going to move on and avoid a winner-take-all scenario in Game 7.
Game 6 on Saturday is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
"Pitching in playoff games is one thing; pitching in deciding playoff games is another," Buchholz said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. "And I feel like it's two pretty evenly matched teams as of now.
"This is what baseball is all about, there's four teams still playing, we're one of them. Being put in the situation, losing the first game at home, and being able to come back and get that win in Game 2, it made it a lot less stressful to come out here and play here on their home turf for three games. There's a lot that goes into it, but I'm excited to get back out there."
Boston's offense got Buchholz off the hook, and the right-hander has David Ortiz to thank for the club's unlikely win. The Red Sox were trailing, 5-1, heading into the bottom of the eighth, but managed to load the bases with two outs to set the table for the veteran designated hitter.
Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit then served up a pitch down the heart of the plate that Ortiz sent into the bullpen in right field for the game-tying grand slam. That slam eventually sparked a walk-off rally in the bottom of the ninth.
Buchholz put the Red Sox in the unenviable position of needing a big comeback because of one bad inning. He got through the first five frames with just one earned run, but had the outing completely unravel in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila each homered, while Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez also doubled to chase Buchholz.
Key stat: Eight hits allowed over 16 postseason innings
Key stat: 1.71 ERA in 12 GS before neck/shoulder injury vs. 3.28 ERA in 6 GS since, including two in playoffs
At Fenway Park
2013: 2 GS, 0-1, 1.93 ERA Career: 5 GS, 1-2, 3.31 ERA
2013: 11 GS, 7-2, 1.91 ERA Career: 60 GS, 28-15, 3.33 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 3 GS, 1-1, 2.14 ERA Career: 8 GS, 2-4, 7.02 ERA
2013: 1 GS, 0-0, 7.94 ERA Career: 8 GS, 2-1, 3.58 ERA
Loves to face: Mike Napoli, 1-for-13, .220 OPS Hates to face: David Ortiz, 7-for-17, 1.524 OPS
Loves to face: Torii Hunter, 4-for-27, .480 OPS Hates to face: Alex Avila, 5-for-11, 1.481 OPS
Why he'll win: Red Sox couldn't touch him in Game 2
Why he'll win: Shows command of fastball
Pitcher beware: Red Sox have hit him well in the past
Pitcher beware: Missing location: he's allowed three homers in two postsesaon starts
Bottom line: Scherzer has been at his best this postseason
Bottom line: If Buchholz can hit spots, he's proven the ability to dominate
The sixth was a testament to just how quickly a game can get out of hand. All it took was a few pitches for Buchholz's outing to start heading south and it's the ability to limit the damage that must be present during his next start.
"Consistency to execution against these types of lineups is never more important," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "When you mislocate, you're going to pay the price and he has in that four-run inning the other night, where in the matter of 11 pitches, it was four runs on the board.
"Recognizing that the momentum, particularly the momentum inside an inning, is what's got to be kept under check a little bit more, and particularly in Clay's situation."
Buchholz admitted there are things he can learn from the effective outing right-hander John Lackey had in Game 3. Lackey commanded the strike zone and utilized his offspeed pitches on a frequent basis to set up the Detroit hitters and keep them off balance.
The end result was Lackey delivering 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out eight and allowing just four hits. Buchholz's goal is to take a similar approach and he will need to establish his curveball early in the game to give the Tigers hitters another pitch to worry about.
That was something Buchholz wasn't able to do during his first start. The 29-year-old relied too much on his fastball and that type of predictability can be dangerous when it comes to an aggressive Detroit lineup.
"It's easy to learn from somebody that's been through and experienced it in the past," Buchholz said of Lackey. "Just the way he worked the counts, was able to get his curveball in for a strike on a consistent basis. I didn't throw too many curveballs last time out.
"If you have a feel for that pitch, I think that's a good pitch for the group that's as aggressive as the Tigers are. There are multiple things I can do differently, and I definitely want it to go a little bit better."