At the end of Monday night’s 6-5 victory over the Twins in 11 innings, a game that took nearly five hours to complete, the six innings Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz pitched seemed like a footnote, a distant memory.
“Very good stuff,’’ said Sox manager John Farrell, when asked to assess Buchholz’s performance. “There were a couple of pitches that got out over the plate where, with their aggressiveness, they squared up. But he was able to work his way out of that bases-loaded jam in the first to keep this from getting too far out of hand.’’
Buchholz failed to earn the win for the first time in seven starts this year. He allowed four runs, seven hits, and two walks while striking out nine. And he rose above the controversy that stemmed from his previous start in Toronto May 1, when two Blue Jays analysts accused the righthander of doctoring his pitches.
“I did the same thing I’ve done all seven starts this year,’’ said Buchholz, who threw a season-high 116 pitches.
“It’s not anywhere in my head. Couple of days afterward, to hear people talk about it in Toronto, it was a little bit different. But when someone’s doing good — if it’s either a hitter or a pitcher — something out of the ordinary that’s really good, everybody thinks they’re doing something bad.’’
Buchholz struggled from the outset Monday when he gave up a pair of runs in the first on three hits and a pair of walks, the last of which loaded the bases. But Buchholz buckled down and got out of the jam by striking out Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks, He threw 36 pitches (23 strikes) in the inning.
“For the most part I felt good,’’ said Buchholz. “I felt good with the pitches. Had some long at-bats there, with a lot of foul balls, which obviously drove up the pitch count where you didn’t want it to be. But overall it felt good. Their team put a lot of good swings on some pitches. Like I said, they put together some good, long at-bats.’’
When he departed after the sixth, Buchholz was on the hook for his first loss of the season. He ended up with a no-decision thanks to Stephen Drew’s tying home run in the seventh. Buchholz did his best Rene Rancourt impersonation with a double fist-pump to celebrate Dustin Pedroia’s solo homer in the eighth that gave the Sox a 5-4 lead.
“Oh, that was awesome,’’ Buchholz said of Pedroia’s first homer of the season and first since last Sept. 11 at the Yankees. “He and Shane [Victorino] had a little in-house bet going on on who would hit the first one and when Shane hit his [in bottom of the fourth] I think [Pedroia] was a little mad. So he had to hit one just to even up, but that’s the kind of player Pedey is, that’s the kind of team this is, coming back from being down three runs with their pitcher throwing as good as he was, and finding a way to battle through it and grind.’’
Just like Buchholz.
Farrell was encouraged by the fact his starter extricated himself from early trouble.
“It was very similar to the stuff he had in his six previous starts,’’ Farrell said. “In some cases, I thought he was even more powerful tonight. High number of strikeouts, went deep into the game, but highest pitch count this year. But overall stuff, it was as probably as good as he’s had in any start this year.’’Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.