Although he did not earn a decision in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz felt he pitched well enough to win. It was a sentiment that grew from Buchholz’s command of his repertoire - fastball, curveball, cutter and, most notably, his changeup.
“He went after guys, threw strikes,’’ said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “He was able to throw strikes with his changeup and he was able to get ahead with his fastball as well.
“But his changeup is so good that it’s tough to sit back and wait on it when he’s throwing his fastball as hard as he does, too. He did a great job, a great job all-around.’’
The fact Buchholz was able to establish his changeup came as a positive development for the 27-year-old righthander, who seemingly had lost a bit of faith in his ability to throw that pitch for a strike.
“I’ve been able to start trusting it again and throwing it like I have in the past, instead of trying to baby it and guide it and throw it for a strike,’’ Buchholz said.
Sunday Buchholz was able to command his changeup for three of his season-high six strikeouts, working it for a pair of punchouts in a 1-2-3 second inning.
“I felt my past three starts I just haven’t had the results,’’ said Buchholz, who departed after seven innings, spotting the Rays a 2-0 lead after scattering eight hits. He matched his season high for innings and pitches with 111, including 69 strikes.
Buchholz was in line for the win, however, when Adrian Gonzalez belted a three-run homer in the seventh off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson.
“Facing these guys as much as we face them, they obviously know the pitches that I throw and I know the hitters, so it’s basically a chess match every time you go out there and who’s going to be better that day,’’ said Buchholz, who is 1-1 with 4.26 ERA in three starts vs. Tampa this season.
“For the most part of the day when I was out there, they were better,’’ Buchholz said. “But I got lucky when Gonzo hit that ball out.’’
To that point, it appeared Hellickson had gained the upper hand on Buchholz, who gave up an RBI groundout to Ben Zobrist in the fourth and an RBI single to Will Rhymes in the seventh.
Buchholz wound up taking his second no-decision in as many starts and fourth of the season when closer Alfredo Aceves gave up a two-run homer to Sean Rodriguez in the ninth.
“Clay had really good changeups and [his] fastballs were very explosive,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine.
“He looked good until he gave up that second run. He was still throwing pretty good, I guess.
“I felt like we were going to pull that one out and give him what he deserved. Because he deserved to win it.’’
Even though he didn’t ultimately enjoy the satisfaction, Buchholz did take some consolation in the rediscovery of his changeup as a trustworthy out pitch.
“Yeah, it’s a pitch that always has been [there] for me my whole career - minor leagues, up here,’’ Buchholz said. “It’s a pitch I can throw behind in the count when it’s good and then I can also throw it when I’m ahead in the count and get some early contact or some swings and misses.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to sort of search for over the last 2-3 weeks and it’s come eventually.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org