BOSTON, MA - JUNE 7: Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated by teammates after their 7-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the game at Fenway Park on June 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Tonight's game was a complete effort in more ways than one.
Obviously there's Clay Buchholz, who only improved on his already strong results from the last couple of games. When his curveball is on, Clay can survive. When his changeup is on, he's a force to be reckoned with. When he's got the feel for both and is able to hit the zone with two different fastballs?
That's the stuff that no-hitters are made of.
He didn't put up the no-no tonight. In fact, Endy Chavez saw to that in the first at bat of the game. What he did do was keep the Orioles off balance all night. Getting his worst stuff out early, Clay saw three men reach in the first three innings on two singles and a single played into a double by Darnell McDonald. Two were erased by way of the double play, and from there Buchholz was essentially untouchable, aside from a couple of hit batsmen (Mark Reynolds in the legs, and Ryan Flaherty in the jersey) in the fifth, Buchholz was in lockdown mode, not surrendering another hit until the eighth as he induced ground ball after ground ball. The only hard contact came in the seventh inning, but Daniel Nava handled both line drives in left, helping Clay to a complete game shutout.
But it wasn't just Clay--the rest of the team performed as well, backing up his gem on the mound with seven runs at the plate. While every batter but Mike Aviles would reach base safely (and he just missed adding to an already lengthy first inning with the long fly ball that ended the frame), there were a few standouts. Adrian Gonzalez could well have had a perfect night, bringing home two runs in the first and only missing a perfect game thanks to a nice catch at the wall by Ryan Flaherty, while Daniel Nava reached base four times, contributing a two-run hit of his own.
What's more, the Sox were simply impressive with how they went about things. Forcing Brian Matusz to throw 37 pitches in the first, the long battles they fought at the plate were reminiscent of the ones the Sox have always worked when at their best. This was not simply the Sox jumping all over a struggling pitcher--we've seen that often enough this year--but a slow, methodical dissection. We can only hope more of the same will follow.