Buchholz goes distance, backed by 5-run 1st
Complete game is right-hander's first in more than three years
SAN DIEGO -- Given what Clay Buchholz has done for the D-backs this year -- his latest gem was a 5-1 win over the Padres on Thursday night at Petco Park -- it's easy to lose sight of just how desperate Arizona was for a starting pitcher in May.
Taijuan Walker had already been lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery and when Robbie Ray went down with a strained oblique in late April, the D-backs tried a number of options.
They gave Kris Medlen a shot, and he allowed seven runs in four innings.
That led to Troy Scribner getting a chance, and he lasted just 3 2/3 in his one start.
During that time period, Buchholz exercised a May 1 opt-out from his Minor League contract with the Royals, since they had not called him up to the big leagues.
The D-backs quickly signed him to a Minor League deal of their own on May 4.
General manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo were both in Boston when Buchholz had success early in his career with the Red Sox, and the familiarity with the pair was one of the reasons Buchholz chose Arizona.
Lovullo went and watched Buchholz throw at the team's Spring Training complex after they signed him and delivered a message to the 34-year-old.
"That's what Torey told me the first day that I saw him -- we know who you are, just get right and go to [Triple-A] Reno and do what you've got to do and whenever you're ready, we'll call you up."
Two weeks later, Buchholz got his D-backs career started by holding the Mets to one run over five innings. Other than a month-long stint on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, his time with the D-backs could not have gone better thus far.
"That was a blessing, you know?" Buchholz said of signing with the D-backs. "To be able to come here with this club and knowing most of the front office, knowing the manager, knowing the hitting coach, it was definitely a better fit. Already had relationships built and when the manager of the club knows what you can do, it's easier to go out and perform; you don't have stress about anything, you don't have to overdo anything."
Buchholz (6-2) didn't have to do any stressing Thursday night as his offense provided him with five runs in the first inning, and he allowed just five hits in tossing his first complete game since July 4, 2015.
"He pitched like he didn't have a lead and he did a great job of pounding the zone with all of his pitches," Lovullo said.
Well, not really all his pitches.
Buchholz has relied heavily on his changeup this year, but for whatever reason, it wasn't working for him Thursday, so he stayed mainly with his fastball, cutter and breaking ball.
With the win, the D-backs maintained a 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Rockies, while pushing their advantage over the idle Dodgers to two games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Shutout spoiled: The only run the Padres managed off Buchholz came with two outs in the eighth, when Hunter Renfroe hit a homer to center. Buchholz and the D-backs thought Renfroe had struck out on the 0-2 pitch before the homer, but the pitch was called a ball.
"Everybody is in here looking at it right now and we're a little bit frustrated," Lovullo said. "We felt like the pitch was close enough to be called a strike. But umpiring is hard. It's a very difficult thing and sometimes, they get them right and sometimes, they get them wrong. What he did was he regrouped and got the next batter out and was able to collect himself enough to throw the complete game, and that's all that matters."
SHAKING IT UP
Lovullo tweaked his batting order before Thursday's game, moving Paul Goldschmidt from the No. 2 spot -- where he's primarily hit -- to cleanup, while putting A.J. Pollock second and David Peralta third. It paid dividends in the first when Peralta homered after both Jonathan Jay and Pollock got on base ahead of him.
"I've been playing around with the idea for several days," Lovullo said. "Offensively, we know it hasn't been a perfect year for us. It's been great at times and it's been flat at times. I wanted to take a look at different things. It was still the same participants. It's just mixing them up a little bit. Sometimes, that pushes them and sparks them."
The D-backs continue their four-game series with the Padres on Friday night with left-hander Robbie Ray (3-2, 4.83 ERA) on the mound. Ray has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts. He has been a much better pitcher away from home this year, compiling a 2-1 record and a 2.70 ERA on the road. The Padres will counter with lefty Joey Lucchesi (6-6, 3.45).