Clay Buchholz went the distance and held the Astros off the board until their last out Saturday afternoon, showing once again that he is well and truly this team's ace.
The first out of the day was scary. Jose Altuve jumped on the first pitch he saw, and was rewarded for his aggressive approach with a fastball that he crushed to center field, sending Mookie Betts back all the way to the track and eventually into the wall as he made the play to keep Altuve from setting an ugly tone early in the day.
Apparently taking Altuve's warning shot to heart, Buchholz started going with movement over velocity, and it worked like a charm. He got Preston Tucker to pop-up into foul territory by the Red Sox dugout, then struck out Carlos Correa with a cutter to end the first without anymore signs of danger.
The next threat, though, would not be long in coming, with Luis Valbuena reaching second base to start the second, and moving to third with just one out. But with the Astros needing just a productive out, Buchholz locked in and denied them so much as a ball in play, striking out Colby Rasmus and Jon Singleton to end the frame.
By that point, the Red Sox had already gotten him a run, with Mookie Betts leading off the bottom of the first with a walk and scoring as Xander Bogaerts found the hole in the right side of the infield for an RBI single. Betts would participate in the team's next run as well, hitting a sacrifice fly to bring Shane Victorino home after the returning outfielder singled in his first at bat back.
The loud out and the leadoff double suggested Buchholz might have to fight his way through this game, but from the third on, it was just plain easy. The third started a streak of three straight 1-2-3 innings for Buchholz, while Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts again made themselves known by doubling in a run a piece in the fifth and sixth innings to make it 4-0.
The Astros managed their first baserunner since the second when Hank Conger led off the sixth with a single, but only a wild pitch allowed him to so much as advance to second, with Buchholz quickly retiring the next three batters. In the seventh they actually managed two hits, but Luis Valbuena grounded into the shift in between, with Pablo Sandoval starting an unorthodox double play from the right side of the infield to keep that inning from getting out of hand.
Mookie Betts would again drive in Shane Victorino for his third RBI of the night in the eighth, with Alejandro De Aza beating out an infield single by diving into first later in the inning to let Sandy Leon (who was 3-for-4 on the day) score a sixth Boston run. Unfortunately, the shutout was not to be, with a leadoff single from Jose Altuve finally resulting in a run for the Astros in the ninth. But it came with two outs, and there was never any real danger of the game getting away from Buchholz, who finished what he started to give the Red Sox a 6-1 win on Independence Day.