The return of Clay Buchholz tonight was a significant event for Red Sox Nation. Clay has a lot of history for a youth with less than a full season in the bigs: a great debut, complete with a no-hitter, and then a terrible slump last year. Which Buchholz would show - the dominant, unhittable power pitcher, or the vulnerable-looking kid who loses control of his pitches and the game?
The game started auspiciously: Kevin Youkilis smacked a 2-run homer off Ricky Romero, the Jays rookie phenom who'd won 5 of his last 6 games. Clay took the mound with the lead, and in the first inning enjoyed fine defense from Nick Green, who made great plays to record all three outs. Romero and Clay both settled down, until the 5th; in that inning, Ortiz crushed a changeup on the outside corner, missing an opposite field home run by inches. The clutch double drove in another 2. This made up for a sac fly that put the Jays on the board in the 4th.
Overall, Buchholz looked sharp against a tough lineup, although he benefitted from some strong defense, and didn't record more than 3 Ks. With our normally porous defense, pitching to contact is rarely a good idea, but Clay did it successfully.
The pen was masterful, with none of its recent struggles evident. The Bard retired all four of the batters he faced, striking out three of them. Hideki Okajima also pitched well, and Jonathan Papelbon had an uncharacteristic 1-2-3 inning, throwing only 8 pitches.
It was a great win, missing only a bit of offense. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your faith in Smoltz) Clay won't get a chance to build on his success tonight, at least in Boston. He's slated to rejoin Pawtucket on Saturday to clear space for Lowrie. Barring trouble in the rotation or a trade of Penny, we won't see him again until September. Which is a shame, because I, for one, would like to see more of him.