Clay Buchholz gave the Red Sox five strong innings Sunday night which, combined with a poorly-handled storm, was enough to earn the Sox a short shutout win.
It was initially Hiroki Kuroda who looked like the one ready to dominate. With his sinker dipping beautifully out of the zone, New York's starter got three quick outs in the top of the first, including a strikeout of Mike Carp. While Clay Buchholz would also avoid surrendering any first-inning runs, he did not look nearly so sharp, requiring 22 pitches to get three outs and walking Robinson Cano in the process.
The momentum did not take long to shift. While the second inning would also prove scoreless, the Sox picked up a pair of singles off Kuroda, while the only damage done to Buchholz was on an infield hit. Needing just 11 pitches to get through the second, with all four at bats resulting in balls on the ground, Buchholz had shaken off the rust.
Still, after the third, there was no sign of a run, with the only baserunner being erased by a well-turned double play started by Jose Iglesias. Finally, though, the Sox were able to strike against Hiroki Kuroda in the fourth. The rally wasn't exactly loud--ground ball singles from Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, with the former helping the latter beat the shift by running on the pitch, and an RBI ground out from Mike Napoli--but it was enough to put the Sox ahead 1-0.
Having been given a lead, Clay Buchholz responded exactly how the Red So wanted: with a shut down fourth. Mark Teixeira and Travis Hafner were each sat down with just seven total pitches, and Vernon Wells grounded out to third to end the frame without ever threatening. And, if the floodgates didn't exactly open, success bred success. Hiroki Kuroda's first pitch of the fifth was a floater to Jose Iglesias, who hammered a home run to left field, a good five rows into the stands--plenty deep for a defensive whiz who wasn't expected to hit much at all.
The next two half-innings would prove carbon copies of the last two. Clay Buchholz took the extra cushion, but did not waste it, striking out Jayson Nix in a 1-2-3 fifth. And just two pitches into the sixth it was David Ortiz hitting a no-doubter to right field, complete with an almost disdainful bat toss.
And that's when the rains came. Ironically, the first pitch had been delayed for a completely dry 45 minutes, but there was no question about playing through the downpour that hit with one out in the sixth. After another 40 minutes of waiting, play resumed for all of two outs before the rain came again in earnest. This time play would not resume, leaving the Red Sox 3-0 victors (Clay Buchholz credited with a complete game shutout), and 2.5 games ahead of their closest competition in the East--no longer the Yankees, but the Orioles.