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Return Of Clay: Buchholz Outlasts Rain, Leads Red Sox Shutout Of Twins

Today, Clay Buchholz did not earn a quality start.

He also showed the best sign we've had yet that he is on the way back.

While his start was cut short by a two-hour rain delay during which he had to keep his arm warm, wasting pitches along the way, when he was actually throwing to opposing batters, everything was going right. The command that has eluded him so far the season was there, leading to strikes (44-of-61), strikeouts (6), and quick innings (an average of 12 pitches per frame). When the Twins did put the ball in play, it was often on weak contact, resulting in ground outs and pop ups.

The offense, meanwhile, gave Clay all he would need in the first when Jed Lowrie singled in Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs after the latter's leadoff double. Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis added a run in the third, and Jacoby Ellsbury provided the Sox some breathing room in the bottom of the eighth in the form of a bases-loaded single, bringing them up to four runs on the day.

Looking back at today's game, it becomes all the more obvious how huge it was for  Alfredo Aceves to mop up the four innings Tim Wakefield couldn't handle on Friday. The bullpen has been tremendously taxed in recent days, and with Clay being held to just five innings, today could have been a disaster if the relief corps hadn't had a day off.

Instead, after Rich Hill allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, it was smooth sailing. Hill picked up a double play and a strikeout, Matt Albers only allowed the lone single, and Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon put up clean frames, with the latter's being dominant as most of the rest have been this season.