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Efficient Clay Buchholz has strong start spoiled

He allows late HR prior to exit

Clay Buchholz struck out nine over seven innings. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Michael Dwyer/AP

Clay Buchholz struck out nine over seven innings.

It felt a bit too familiar for Clay Buchholz.

For the second time in as many outings, Buchholz pitched at least seven quality innings — enough to merit a victory — only to have it spoiled by a late home run.

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Buchholz pitched seven innings in Friday’s 5-3, 10-inning loss to the Astros and struck out nine batters, but there was one pitch that stained his solid performance.

With two outs in the seventh, Robbie Grossman turned on the righthander’s cutter, which was down and in, and deposited it into the right-field seats to tie the game at 2.

Boston scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning and Buchholz was replaced by Edward Mujica, but the Red Sox couldn’t hold the lead.

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Last Saturday against the Angels, Buchholz pitched into the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead before giving up a tying home run to Mike Trout, and the Sox ultimately lost, 5-4, in 19 innings.

“I felt pretty good throughout, if it wasn’t for that home run in the last inning, we would’ve had a better chance of winning,” Buchholz said Friday.

“The guys battled back and got a run in the bottom of the inning to push forward; it just didn’t happen tonight.

“It was a cutter in, and it just looked like [Grossman] was sitting on it or that’s the location he was looking for, so he barreled it up. It happens.”

After Mujica entered with a 3-2 lead in the eighth, he gave up singles to Chris Carter and Dexter Fowler.

Tommy Layne came in and struck out the next two batters, and Burke Badenhop got the call to finish the inning. Then things went awry.

Matt Dominguez sent a sharp grounder to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who flipped the ball to Dustin Pedroia at second for a force out to end the inning. But Fowler just beat the throw.

Gregorio Petit, who was running for Carter, rounded third and broke for home, and Pedroia fired a bullet to catcher Christian Vazquez.

Petit appeared to get caught in a rundown, but he faked out Vazquez and reached for the plate. Vazquez threw to Badenhop, who was covering the plate, but the pitcher couldn’t handle the toss. Petit acrobatically touched the plate for the tying run.

The Sox challenged the play, but both rulings were upheld.

Buchholz (5-7, 5.79 ERA), who hasn’t earned a win since July 18, was left with his third no-decision in as many starts.

“It was a really good athletic play for the guy running the bases,” Buchholz said.

“Crazy things happen. You expect the guy to get out at second, and Pedey was heads-up and threw the ball home and I think Vazquez thought he was going to get in a rundown and the guy sort of ran behind him.”

The righthander has shown improvement in his last two starts after giving up 18 earned runs over 16 innings in his previous three outings.

“Clay was outstanding once again. He was crisp,” manager John Farrell said. “He had a very good curveball to put hitters away with, to lead guys off with strikes.

“A lot of strikes overall. He was very efficient. Unfortunately, it seemed like they didn’t let up when they got two outs and that’s when they were able to score pretty much all five of their runs.”

Buchholz displayed strong command Friday, mixing his fastball and curveball to keep the Astros off balance. Of his 110 pitches, 31 were curveballs.

“Any time you can steal a strike, it doesn’t matter what the count is, it puts them on their heels and puts you in a good spot to succeed,” Buchholz said. “As far as the curveball goes, it’s a good pitch whenever I can use it for a strike.”

“The last two times out, I’ve been able to throw a curveball behind or ahead in the count for strike one or 2-0, flip a curveball for a free strike. That’s sort of how I pitched last year, I just hadn’t been able to do it a lot this year. All the pitches fall into place whenever I get comfortable.”

Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a
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