It must be incredibly frustrating as a starting pitcher to watch your offense struggle while you're in the midst of working a great game. Unfortunately, on Friday night in Seattle, it was Clay Buchholz's turn to watch the Red Sox offense struggle to put runs on the board, ultimately costing him the chance to earn what should have been a well-deserved win.
There was no question on Friday that Buchholz was the star of the show: he had one of the best performances we've seen from him in quite some time, going eight strong innings, allowing just three hits to Seattle batters while sending 11 Seattle batters back to the bench by way of the strikeout. The Mariners were chasing pitches all night long, allowing Buchholz to use his off-speed pitches to optimal effect. Of the 102 pitches Buchholz threw Friday night, there was only one that he would have wanted back—a two-out solo homer to Seth Smith in the bottom of the sixth inning. In spite of that, this is exactly the kind of start we want to see Buchholz have every time he steps out onto the field.
Unfortunately, as has so often been the case this season, a good pitching performance was marred by both a quiet offense and ineffective relief. The Sox had some early success, plating the first run of the game in the second inning off of a Xander Bogaerts triple off of J. A. Happ that brought in Shane Victorino. Unfortunately, Happ was nearly as effective as Buchholz was Friday night, and some of his mistakes were bailed out by Seattle's defense.
The biggest missed opportunity came in the fourth inning, when the Sox had runners on the corners in the form of Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino on the corners with Bogaerts at the plate. Unfortunately, Bogaerts didn't get to finish his at-bat, because Victorino was caught straying too far off of first base, and was in the process of being run down by Happ, first baseman Logan Morrison, and shortstop Brad Miller. Sensing a possible opportunity to score while the rundown went down, Napoli tried to steal home. Unfortunately, Napoli's intelligence as a baserunner is not matched by his speed. He was quickly detected, and the rundown between first and second became a rundown between third and home. Napoli was tagged out, and the fourth inning was over.
The game was then quiet—save the aforementioned longball—until the bottom of the ninth, when Tommy Layne came in for Clay Buchholz. Layne got Willie Bloomquist on a groundout, while Miller reached on a single to Bogaerts. Cano's groundout advanced Miller to second. Manager John Farrell tried to play matchups, bringing in Junichi Tazawa to face Nelson Cruz—when he should have probably pitched around him and tried to setup a forceout against Kyle Seager. Sadly, as has so often been the case, Tazawa struggled to keep his inherited runners from scoring. In this case, Cruz managed to single to left, bringing in Miller, charging the run—and the loss—to Layne.
On a night when the first-place Yankees were shellacked by Kansas City and the second-place Rays were beaten by Minnesota, it would have been a wonderful chance to get back to .500 and make up some ground in the AL East. Instead, the Sox will have to regroup and wait until Sunday's game at the earliest for another opportunity to break even.