Following Clay Buchholz is torture this year.
Forget the terrible start. Well, don't forget it. Forget the awful feelings of it, and how bad it was watching a Clay Buchholz start knowing--just knowing--it was going to be a loss. Keep, however, the numbers of it. The terrible ERA in particular.
We have watched Clay slowly but surely chip away at that number. From nine, down to seven, mid-fives, down under five...But never managing to just grab hold of it and push it down into impressive territory. Always, when he finally seems to have found a rhythm, he manages to backslide.
It happened when he first got it all together around the end of May. Four amazing games with 33 innings and five runs allowed. Then two games that would generously be called mediocre. Six strong games--his best run--followed seven runs in five innings against LA, and a trio of middling efforts to follow. Finally he puts together two more great starts, and just when it looks like he's going to push through, finish the year strong, and maybe even salvage a figure under four...
It wasn't a complete disaster today. There were extended periods of strong pitching. But it really wasn't good. Five runs (four earned) in six innings against perhaps the worst offense the game has to offer outside of our own. Three of them coming on a seemingly random meltdown to start the second, where he came out, threw eight balls in ten pitches, and then coughed up a home run on a get-me-over fastball.
The result, of course, is a Rays win. Thanks to Oakland winning they're not really any closer to a wild card spot, but it was a chance to really drive the nail into the coffin, and the Sox didn't take advantage of it. It wasn't just Buchholz, either, with the offense running into outs on the basepaths and letting David Price off the hook in the shaky early innings. That's just not something you can do against a guy like Price, who ended up going the distance and striking out 13 against this shabby lineup.
Buchholz will have one more chance. A complete game shutout would actually leave him with an ERA just shy of 4.00. But it seems unlikely, especially coming against the Yankees. This, really, was his chance to make his season look that much different. And now it's gone.