It's rare that allowing three runs before recording an out in the second inning is part of the recipe to a successful start. Tonight, however, Clay Buchholz made it work, tossing in a bit of history besides.
The runs came fast, even given their placement. The first pitch of the game resulted in a single, and two ground ball hits past Adrian Gonzalez made it 2-0 before the second out was recorded. Then, in the second, it was the first pitch of the inning that cost him a third, as Mark Reynolds went deep to center. The speed with which the third was added only helped to highlight and, in a way, ridicule, how difficult it had been for the Sox to scrape the one run across in the top of the second.
From there, however, it was a very different game. Double plays got Clay through the third and fourth on six at bats, and when the top of the lineup came to the plate against a tiring Chris Tillman in the fifth, they did what they needed to do. Carl Crawford singled, Dustin Pedroia doubled, and after a wild pitch scored one, Adrian Gonzalez brought Pedroia home to make it a tie game.
The sixth didn't prove any better for the Orioles. With two men on and two out, Manny Machado couldn't make the play on a dribbler to third off the bat of Dustin Pedroia, allowing the go-ahead run to come in. A couple singles later, and it was 6-3, Red Sox.
The real highlight of the sixth, however, would come in the bottom of the inning. Coming up against Adam Jones, Buchholz dotted the outside corner with a curveball, got Jones to swing at another, and then planted a cutter in the zone for a strikeout. Next up was Matt Wieters. Foul ball, swing through a cutter, take a fastball for strike three. Finally, Chris Davis: foul, foul, whiffs on a changeup.
Nine pitches making three strikeouts-the recipe for an Immaculate Inning. It's a feat that had only been achieved 46 times in the history of the MLB. For comparison, there have been 235 no-hitters in the modern era.
Buchholz didn't manage to strike out the rest of the Orioles on 27 pitches, but he did get through the seventh and eighth, and then handed it off to Alfredo Aceves for a scoreless ninth.
Clay Buchholz, even when he doesn't look it early on, is the stopper. And once again he proved historically good in Camden Yards. When a season has gone wrong, it's silver linings like this that make the games worth watching.