Clay Buchholz rose above a bad beginning Monday night. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
For a starting pitcher, a good beginning is always helpful. Quick early innings keep the pitch count down, keeps opponents from seeing your full arsenal, and allows your team a chance to get off to an early lead rather than demoralizing them with an early deficit. For a headcase--the sort that Clay Buchholz has often been accused of being--that goes for double.
But it's not everything.
By the second pitch of the game, the Sox found themselves in 1-0 hole thanks to a leadoff homer. Just a few tosses later, and a runner was on second with zero outs.
Even when Clay managed to get out of that mess, he quickly let another run in come the third and was faced with a bases loaded, one out situation.
But Clay Buchholz didn't fold. He didn't get in his own head and freak out about throwing in the zone, overthrow his fastball, try to be perfect, or simply toss the ball in there and hope. Instead he bore down and started recording outs. He kept to the zone with his fastball, kept hitters off-balance by mixing in the curveball, and turned to his changeup in big moments. And he won the game.
It was a big performance from a pitcher who has been providing them more often than not of late. Eight innings, three runs, two earned. He kept the Sox in it when their offense went quiet after a first-inning burst against Max Scherzer, held the lead after Dustin Pedroia provided it with a two-run shot in the sixth--even with a defensive lapse cost them a run in the seventh--and then finished the eighth so the Sox would need just the one frame from the bullpen.
As for the offense, what more can you ask from them? Hits from all but Ryan Sweeney (who is now headed for X-Rays after punching a door in frustration. There goes that trade candidate...), Ellsbury and Crawford forming a dynamic leadoff duo (Ellsbury's nine-pitch leadoff walk followed by Carl Crawford's RBI triple was a thing of beauty), Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks hitting two-run shots...
It's a night without much to complain about, which is something that's all the more appreciable in a season like this.
With the trade deadline before tomorrow's game, this is also the last impression the team will make on Ben Cherington before he goes to the phones once-and-for-all. And, frankly, that's a bit concerning, because no matter how good they looked tonight, they're still only one game below .500. Still the team that couldn't take more than one game off the Jays and Rangers last week. Still not the team that demands shelling out prospects to try and bolster.
But so far all is quiet on the western front, with no sign that the team will act rashly. For now it's a night to enjoy a good win. Leave the anxiety for tomorrow.