They are the kind of results that suggest something is physically wrong with Clay Buchholz. Only a pulled muscle, stretched ligament or some other injury can explain his alarming earned run average and the kind of flat pitches opposing hitters can’t wait to swing at.
Only that’s not it, Buchholz said Wednesday night after giving up another pile of runs and a succession of hard-hit balls to all corners of Fenway Park. It’s something far less easy to explain.
“There’s absolutely nothing physically bothering me,” he said after the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Red Sox, 6-4. “It’s tough to go out there and when you miss with one pitch it gets hit every time. That’s sort of where I’m at right now.”
Buchholz was one of the best pitchers in baseball a year ago at this time. His first 12 starts were so powerful and precise he was picked for the American League All-Star team.
Now he’s lost. Buchholz is 2-4 with a 6.32 ERA and the Red Sox have won only three of the nine games he has started. Buchholz is one of the primary reasons the Red Sox are 20-25 and have lost six straight.
A pitcher the team saw as one of its pillars has become a detriment to a rotation that earlier on Wednesday lost Felix Doubront to the disabled list with a sore shoulder.
Doubront can disappear for a few weeks, get well, and figure it out. Buchholz, manager John Farrell said, will start his next game as scheduled on Monday against the Atlanta Braves.
“There’s no plan at this point to remove him from the rotation,” Farrell said. “It’s upon us to make the necessary adjustments to eliminate the number of mistakes.”
Buchholz allowed five runs, four earned, on nine hits against Toronto before being lifted in the fifth inning. In his last three starts, the righthander has given up 13 earned runs on 29 hits over 15 innings.
Wednesday was the fourth time already this season Buchholz wasn’t able to complete five innings. He laughed when asked how hard it’s been for him to stay positive.
“Pretty hard,” he said.
But Buchholz snapped a quick answer when asked if he felt frustration.
“Would you? Yeah, I’m frustrated,” he said.
Buchholz felt his stuff was sharp and his velocity consistent. He insisted, results aside, that he threw some good curveballs, cutters, and sinkers. Farrell agreed there was improvement but not nearly enough.
“We’ve got to make either an adjustment or a correction mechanically,” Farrell said. “Too many misfires up to the arm side [of the plate].”
Buchholz was asked what needed fixing.
“I guess that’s the question. I don’t know,” he said. “Obviously, I’m trying. I’m not going out there trying to give up home runs to every guy who walks up to the plate.”
Yet Edwin Encarnacion belted a solo shot in the second inning and a two-run homer in the third after Adam Lind lined a triple to the triangle in center field.
An error led to an unearned run in the fifth inning, but Buchholz missed a chance to end the inning by allowing a two-out RBI single by No. 8 hitter Dioner Navarro.
That ended his night after 90 pitches. Some in the crowd of 36,116 booed as he walked to the dugout.
Encarnacion has hit four home runs in the first two games of the series and has 13 on the season. He has four multi-home run games this month, the most since Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies had four in September 2010.
The Red Sox are 10-16 at Fenway Park with five consecutive losses for the first time since the 2012 team abandoned ship that August. The defending World Series champions have dropped seven of eight overall yet are only four games out of first place.
The lineup showed signs of life with 11 hits. Xander Bogaerts was 3 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI. He is up to .283 on the season with a .782 OPS. Mike Carp was 2 for 3 with two doubles and a walk. A.J. Pierzynski added three hits, one more than he had in his previous seven games.
The Sox, trailing, 6-1, gave the remnants of the crowd some excitement in the eighth inning. Carp doubled in a run and scored when Bogaerts doubled high off the wall in left field. Brock Holt followed with an RBI single.
But Grady Sizemore, 0 for 4 after being chosen as the latest leadoff hitter, struck out on three pitches before Dustin Pedroia grounded out.
Pierzynski singled with two outs in the ninth against closer Casey Janssen. Shane Victorino, who homered earlier, grounded into a force.
Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (3-3) allowed one run on six hits over 5⅔ innings.
The Red Sox will have Jon Lester on the mound Thursday afternoon, a good candidate to prevent the first 0-6 homestand since 1994.
“Oh, man. It has to get better,” Bogaerts said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.