For more than three months now, the Red Sox have been able to rely on Clay Buchholz to come through with strong start after strong start. He's been the stopper where pitchers like Josh Beckett and Jon Lester failed, and while his early-season struggles have dragged his overall numbers down, he's looked every bit the front-line starter in that time.
Even the best pitchers have bad nights, though, and with an extra serving of slow hook from Bobby Valentine, turning it into an unmitigated disaster.
While the damage started slowly for Buchholz--two runs in the third inning on a couple flairs and a ground ball--it became clear in the fourth and fifth innings that it was not his night. A pair of doubles and singles cost him two more in the fourth, and only Pedro Ciriaco catching Chris Iannetta at the plate on a fielders choice after a leadoff walk and single saved the Sox from more damage.
Bobby Valentine, however, was out for one more inning. And then after a Howie Kendrick homer, one more batter. And after a Miacer Izturis single, one more batter. Only the third hit of the frame managed to wake the manager from his slumber, but Junichi Tazawa couldn't keep Buchholz' runners out.
Offensively, it wasn't the best night either, though it's perhaps better than it seems from the run total. Jacoby Ellsbury seemed completely lost at the plate until singling in his last at bat, Adrian Gonzalez is on a mini-slump, and for all that the Sox were able to pick up hits, they scattered them around too widely, leaving them with just three runs for their 13 baserunners.
Rarely do we expect much out of the Red Sox these days, but Buchholz starts had been the one time for some optimism. Today, it just served to build us up for the fall.