CLEVELAND — Jon Lester is having the worst season of his career, Josh Beckett is the least popular athlete in Boston, and Felix Doubront has been worn down by a heavy workload.
It was even worse for Daniel Bard, who lost the ability to throw strikes and was sent to the minors.
The Red Sox rotation has been a mess throughout the season. But Clay Buchholz, who had his own problems early on, is shining through the gloom.
Buchholz was outstanding against the Cleveland Indians on Friday, throwing his second complete game of the season in a 3-2 victory before a crowd of 27,246 at Progressive Field.
The righthander allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and struck out six without a walk. Buchholz (10-3) retired his final 12 batters and 18 of the final 19. He threw 104 pitches, 72 for strikes.
Buchholz is 6-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 10 starts since June 1. He also threw a complete game against Baltimore on June 7.
Buchholz faced only 30 batters in recording the fifth complete game of his career. It was the second time he went nine innings and allowed two or fewer hits, the other game being his no-hitter against Baltimore in 2007.
The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak despite collecting only six hits against three Cleveland pitchers. A two-run home run by Cody Ross off Chris Seddon (0-1) in the sixth inning was the difference.
The Red Sox left five men on base and were 1 for 4 with runners in scoring position, leaving it to Buchholz to pitch the entire game with little margin for error. But he never caved in to the Indians.
The game did not start well for Buchholz. The second batter for Cleveland, All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, belted a fastball out to left-center for his 13th home run.
Buchholz allowed only one other hit over the next six innings, a leadoff double by Cabrera in the fourth.
Buchholz efficiently worked out of that jam by getting Shin-Soo Choo on a fly ball to center, Carlos Santana on a grounder to first base, and Michael Brantley on a line drive to center that Jacoby Ellsbury caught on the run.
The Indians started Seddon, a 28-year-old lefthander who has spent the majority of his career in the minor leagues with four organizations.
Friday’s game was his third with Cleveland and second start.
Seddon pitched better than his résumé suggested he would, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits over six innings.
He struck out three and walked two.
Seddon retired the first six batters in order before Ryan Lavarnway singled to start the third inning. Lavarnway, who does not run well, tried to advance when a pitch rolled away from Santana and was easily thrown out.
Mike Aviles drew a walk with one out in the fourth inning and went to third when Seddon threw away a pickoff throw. With the infield in, Dustin Pedroia lined a single into left field. It was only his 42d RBI of the season.
Seddon intentionally walked Ross with two outs to get to Will Middlebrooks. He hit the ball hard but right at Cabrera at shortstop.
The Sox took a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. Pedroia singled to center with one out. With two outs, Ross got ahead in the count and hit a slider to the deepest part of the ballpark, in center field. It landed 420 feet away.
It was the 18th home run for Ross, his most since hitting 24 for the Marlins in 2009.
Cleveland got a run back in the bottom of the sixth thanks to some sloppy play by the Red Sox.
Jason Donald led off with a ground ball to second base that Pedroia charged. The ball rolled under his glove for an error and rolled into center field.
When Donald took an aggressive turn around first base, Aviles tried to throw behind him. But the ball bounced into the stands and Donald was awarded third base.
Ezequiel Carrera drove in Donald with a sacrifice fly to right field.