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Young bats quiet behind QS from vet Buchholz

@Sportsgal25
September 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Clay Buchholz seems to be drawing from the youthful energy that surrounds him every time he takes the mound. The 35-year-old held his own Friday night on a roster stocked with rookies, stringing together a quality outing in a 5-0 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Clay Buchholz seems to be drawing from the youthful energy that surrounds him every time he takes the mound. The 35-year-old held his own Friday night on a roster stocked with rookies, stringing together a quality outing in a 5-0 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Two of Buchholz’s three starts since returning from the 60-day injured list have been of the quality variety, and Friday marked a night in which he gained momentum as he went. The right-hander was touched for three runs over the first two innings on an RBI double from Avisail Garcia and a two-run homer from Mike Zunino, but he settled down to allow just one more run over his final four frames.

Box score

As much as Buchholz can be buoyed by his young teammates, he tries to return the favor. On Friday, Toronto’s inexperienced arms had a front-row seat to the school of Buchholz as he taught an important lesson about not dwelling on the past.

“It’s [something] I try to tell all the young guys,” the veteran hurler said. “You’re going to give up home runs, especially now more than ever, and if you’re still thinking about that last pitch and the home run when you begin the next at-bat, you’re already defeating yourself.

“You’ve got to have a short memory with it. … It’s part of pitching, and it’s not easy sometimes, but it’s just the way it is.”

Garcia’s knock represented the second first-inning run Buchholz allowed in eight starts this season, but the Blue Jays’ starter didn’t let it faze him, rebounding to induce consecutive groundouts to end the threat. He responded similarly after Zunino’s homer, permitting a single before two outs ended the frame.

Buchholz scattered seven hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter, keeping the Blue Jays in the game. His absence of free passes was a bright spot despite the loss, a welcome step back on the right path after Buchholz issued five walks in 5 2/3 innings his last time out, against the Astros. Prior to that outing, Buchholz had been charged with just six walks the rest of his season, a stretch spanning six starts and 30 2/3 innings.

“He did his job -- he kept us in the game,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I know [he allowed] four runs and three of them were earned, but that’s good enough for us usually, because we usually swing the bats.

“He did a good job mixing and matching with his pitches and he kept us in the game.”

Unfortunately for Buchholz, the offense never really got going behind him. Toronto had a promising start to the night at the plate, with Randal Grichuk clubbing a two-out triple to the wall in right field in the first inning. The excitement was short-lived though, as Grichuk’s knock stood for the only Blue Jays hit in the game until Anthony Alford shot a single through the left side in the ninth inning.

Alford’s hit was sandwiched between a pair of walks that loaded the bases with no outs, and had the Blue Jays hopeful of a comeback before Rays reliever Emilio Pagan entered the game and retired the next three batters in order to earn the save.

“The [American League] East is no joke,” Buchholz said. “Some tough lineups. ... Tonight, whenever I missed in the zone, it got hit."

The defeat marked Toronto’s fifth in a row and dropped the Blue Jays to a season-low 32 games below .500. While the season has been one of growing and maturing, the current stretch has also been brutal -- Toronto is in the middle of its fourth consecutive series against a team currently in a playoff spot, and holds a 2-7 record during the stretch against the Astros (1-2) Braves (1-3; split between two series) and the Rays (0-2).

Buchholz, for one, is OK with the learning curve, as long as the students continue to grow with each lesson.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “You’d like to win, but for this group, it’s a learning experience; a learning curve. I think in the near future, there will be a lot of wins for this team.”

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.