Clay Buchholz allowed a career-high 13 hits and allowed six runs in 4⅓ innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night. The last stinker Buchholz had was October 1, 2012, when he allowed six hits and eight runs in 1⅔innings against the Yankees.
We know Buchholz has to have to have a stinker every now and then, but this loss is on Buchholz.
The Red Sox took this game to the 11th and finally lost, 7-6, but the way Buchholz pitched they had no reason to be in the hunt for that long. The Brewers, who won the game on a Logan Schafer fly ball to left-center that got between Grady Sizemore and Johnny Gomes and fell for an RBI double, was only made possible by the Brewers’ inability to win the game much earlier when they couldn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position to save their lives.
For that, credit a Red Sox bullpen that almost bailed Buchholz out with a strong performance — 15 of the team’s 18 strikeouts were by the Sox bullpen, a team record.
It was Burke Badenhop, a former Brewers reliever, who gave up the winning run.
Buchholz’s outing was so out of character for him and for the Red Sox rotation overall.
“Thirteen hits — you don’t want to give up that many hits. They were swinging early and that’s what you want, but I didn’t put my pitches where I wanted to. That’s the way the game goes sometimes,” Buchholz said.
Buchholz hit 91 miles per hour tops on his fastball, which was mostly in the high 80s to 90. He wasn’t getting much done with his usually trusty two-seamer. The Brewers seemed very comfortable at the plate. There wasn’t much in the tank and Sox manager John Farrell stuck with him a lot longer than we thought he would.
“That’s where he finished up in spring training — he was 89-91 m.p.h. — occasionally a tick better. Given the conditions, as cold as it is, I don’t think there was a dropoff in arm strength from camp,” Farrell said.
Buchholz was slow getting out of the gate. The Red Sox didn’t want to rush anything with him after an injury-filled 2013. He was dominating when he did pitch last season, but unable to pitch for three months with a neck/shoulder injury. Buchholz allowed only five earned runs in his first six starts last season and allowed more than three earned runs in only one of his 16 starts. Prior to Saturday, he had started 57 games at Fenway without giving up more than seven hits.
Buchholz did not have surgery in the offseason and rest supposedly solved his physical issues. He had been inserted in the No. 5 spot in the rotation this season even though he might be the most talented pitcher the Red Sox have.
But on Saturday night he wasn’t even good enough to be a No. 5. He allowed a pair of home runs in the second inning — a two-run shot to Carlos Gomez and a solo shot to Mark Reynolds. He also gave up a big two-run double to Scooter Gennett in a three-run third inning. It wasn’t fun to watch.
The Red Sox didn’t have too many of these last year. Alfredo Aceves had one on April 23, allowing seven hits and eight runs in 3⅓ innings. Felix Doubront had one on May 3 in which he allowed 12 hits and six earned runs in 3⅔ innings. Allen Webster had a couple of brutal starts. Jake Peavy had a rough one on Aug. 9 vs. the Royals, allowing 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings.
Even World Series champions have them. In Buchholz's case, we’re just waiting for him to turn into a superstar. When he was healthy and pitched last season he was unhittable. He could have been the Cy Young winner had he stayed healthy all season.
Buchholz is 29 and has yet to pitch 200 innings in his career. Last season he showed he could pitch with less velocity in the World Series, but there was no carryover. Buchholz didn’t seem to be interested in the radar gun in spring training, nor should he. He has command of five different pitches which is why he’s so good.
Every inning he pitched Saturday night he was under siege. The hits just kept on coming. And not many of them were cheapies.
It was a chilling night, with temperatures dropping into the 30s, but that should not have been a factor. Buchholz’s pitches were up in the zone. It didn’t seem as if he was ready to pitch.
The Red Sox offense, which was without Will Middlebrooks (calf), Shane Victorino (hamstring), David Ortiz (scheduled day off; he pinch-hit in the ninth), Mike Carp (back; he came into the game late), did well to get close (Mike Napoli’s homer was huge in the third) and then tie it when Jonathan Herrera reached on an error by shortstop Jean Segura in the sixth, scoring Xander Bogaerts.
Then the bullpen did a fantastic job holding the line. Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa were strikeout machines. Tazawa got out of a bases-loaded jam.
“Clay threw some pitches in the bottom of the strike zone and followed up with a changeup that was up or a breaking ball that was up or a fastball that was up,” said Farrell. More than anything it was missed location rather than stuff. I thought the overall stuff was similar. It was where pitches were located in the strike zone that was the biggest difference than what we’ve seen in spring training.”
“Even on days when he hasn’t had his best stuff he’s had the ability to manipulate the ball and get the ball away from the bat head. To their credit, they didn’t miss many pitches up.”
Both Farrell and Buchholz didn’t see any reason for concern.
“I don’t think there’s any lingering concern,” Farrell said. “April in Boston is going to be cold. I can’t chalk it up to conditions. It was just inconsistency to location and strike zone.”
Buchholz said there was nothing physical going on except that he had trouble getting loose early on in the cold weather. His next start will come against the Yankees in New York.
“I’ve been around for a little bit. You can’t dwell on your last start. I’ll put in the work I need to work,” Buchholz said.
He needs to be a huge factor for this team to win again. He’s allowed a mulligan every now and then, but this one was on him.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.