Buchholz's command, control on full display
Red Sox righty stymies O's with fastball, secondary pitches in another stellar outing
BOSTON -- On a night when the Red Sox were in dire need a bounceback pitching performance, Clay Buchholz delivered with authority in a 5-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Buchholz pitched around eight hits to work seven innings of one-run ball in the win, further cementing himself as Boston's stopper on the heels of a subpar start from Joe Kelly. The veteran right-hander struck out seven, walked one and held the O's to 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Even more impressively, he threw 71 percent of his pitches for strikes and incorporated a strong mix of fastballs and secondary pitches. The changeup proved especially effective, as Buchholz induced six whiffs and recorded two strikeouts with it, while his cutter produced a handful of in-play outs.
"[I] was able to throw some changeups in some big spots and was able to use the cutter on both sides of the plate," Buchholz said. "They hit some balls pretty hard right at some guys and defense made the plays on them, so that always helps, too."
Chris Davis dispensed the only real blemish of Buchholz's night in the sixth by muscling a fastball into shallow center for a run-scoring single.
Baltimore's power-heavy lineup entered the game with the fifth-most home runs in the Majors (85). But Buchholz limited the damage to six singles and a pair of doubles, making it six consecutive starts in which he has not allowed a homer.
This, he said, is the product of a conscious approach.
"Solo home runs, those are fine," Buchholz said. "The guys that are going to hit home runs off of you, I think everybody knows that. It's the situations with runners on I go out there and say, 'OK, this is one thing I'm not going to do is give up a home run right now.' If I walk him, I walk him, and I can live with that.
"It used to be you don't want to walk a run in with the bases loaded, but if I'm out there and got a full count and the guy's battling and fouling some pitches off, I'm not just going to throw a fastball down the middle and let him hit it. I'm going to try to get him out with a good pitch."
That mentality served Buchholz well at several points Wednesday. However, he also received assistance from batterymate Sandy Leon, who caught Manny Machado stealing in the first and laid down a well-executed bunt that helped spark Boston's five-run outburst in the sixth.
"Me and Sandy, for the most part of each start that we've been going out there, we've been pretty much on the same page, and the game seems to flow a little bit better," Buchholz said.
Since a few rough outings to start the season, Buchholz has grown into a stabilizing force. He has posted a 2.48 ERA over his past nine starts, lowering his overall ERA from 6.03 to 3.68, and tallied 51 strikeouts to 13 walks in that span.
And if the Red Sox hope to keep themselves from falling out of contention in the American League East, continued dominance from Buchholz should remain an important part of the equation.
"He's been very dependable for us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Seven strong innings tonight. Good to see him go out and put up a zero after we scored the five. Led the way here for us tonight."