Buchholz proving he's not just another No. 3 starter


BOSTON - One of these Red Sox pitchers is not like the others. That one pitcher is Clay Buchholz, who has clearly distanced himself from the pack of "No. 3 starters" that began the season.

Let's see: One of those No. 3 starters, Joe Kelly, is currently on the PawSox, and another, Justin Masterson, just returned from there (and it could be argued that he still belongs). Rick Porcello, the Red Sox' $20 million-a-year man, just gave up another home run as you read this, and Wade Miley is a bit of a mixed bag.

And then there is Clay Buchholz, who after a complete-game, one-run performance has improved to 7-6, but more important, lowered his ERA to 3.27. Zoom in some more and you'll see how excellent Buchholz has been for the Sox over his past 10 games: 5-2, with a 1.99 ERA. Now, zoom in just a bit more to his last four appearances, where he's thrown 7-plus innings each time while allowing 1 earned run or less, going 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA.

In other words, if not for Buchholz, the Sox staff would all still be wearing t-shirts that read "he's the ace", a joke that wasn't really a joke. At least now, it's understood that Buchholz is the closest thing the Sox have to an ace, and it's pretty close these days.

"He's been on a run the last 10 starts where he's been in control," John Farrell said after the 6-1 Red Sox win over the Astros on Saturday. "That was the case again today for the full nine innings of work. A number of pitches with men on base that he was able to execute. He's in such a good place mentally where he's completing his delivery, commanding four pitches for strikes. In control today."

Buchholz said the biggest thing on his mind going into the game was to go deeper into the game after the way the bullpen has been overused the past few games. He did that and then some.

"Complete games don't always happen," Buchholz said. "There's a lot of things that have to go right for things like that to happen, but I could throw just about any pitch I wanted to today. It doesn't happen like that very often but I was able to locate curveballs and throw changeups in the dirt whenever I needed some swings and misses, and threw some cutters off of some heaters.

Buchholz allowed a lone run with two outs in the ninth inning after missing on a pitch just outside that he wanted for strike three. On the day, he allowed just six hits and didn't walk a batter. He struck out eight and threw 110 pitches, 80 for strikes.

Buchholz allowed only one hit to his first 16 batters, letting the Sox build an early lead. He retired 12 in a row between the third and fifth innings and was perfect in the first, third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings.

"The innings are quality that he is giving us and the way we've swung the bat over last month-plus, it's been a very good combination," Farrell said. "Once again, [catcher] Sandy [Leon] did a great job of handling him. Clay and Sandy are on the same page and have been pretty much each time they've gone out there, but Clay setting the tone early allows us to go out and put some runs on the board. He's been able to put up that zero following innings we've scored."

Of course, Buchholz had a successful start to the 2013 season, too, before he hit the disabled list in mid-June. At that point, he was 9-0 with a 1.88 ERA. Farrell sees some similarities from the success he had to that point to what he's doing now.

"Very similar," Farrell said. "Anytime you're talking about a guy who is going to go seven or eight innings pretty much each time out with low runs allowed, it's a very similar run."

Of course, we know Buchholz couldn't stay healthy after that. Only time will tell what happens the rest of the way, but Buchholz hasn't had any health issues to this point.

"As far as stamina and how my body feels I'm probably in the best shape of my life," Buchholz said.

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