BOSTON (CBS) — In his return to the mound on Wednesday night, Clay Buchholz was good, but not great. Given how Buchholz looked through the first two months of the season, both he and the Red Sox will take it.
“It’s good to be back,” Buchholz said.
The right-hander earned the win for going 7 1/3 innings, needing just 76 pitches to do so. He did allow three home runs, two of which were solo jobs, while striking out two and walking none. The Red Sox won 5-4.
In addition to the difficulty of pitching in the big leagues for the first time since May 26, Buchholz said the Mariners’ aggressiveness at the plate left him little room for error. He said the two homers he allowed in the second inning were both off mistakes, and Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino made him pay.
“For the number of pitches that I threw, it was a grinding, stressful outing knowing that I can’t make a mistake with them,” Buchholz said.
Brad Miller took Buchholz deep for a solo shot to lead off the eighth, before Buchholz retired Stefen Romero for his final batter of the night.
Manager John Farrell came out with the hook, but not after being thoroughly impressed with the work of Buchholz.
“He was outstanding. With the exception of a three-hitter span in the second inning, he really settled in from the third inning on,” Farrell said. “He pitched comfortably, he was extremely efficient, just 74 pitches through seven innings. It really gave us a lift in that starting rotation, and what he could mean to us going forward is not only a boost but the potential for well above average performance.”
Both Farrell and Buchholz agreed that an effective changeup was crucial to finding success.
“The last couple starts, the rehab starts I’ve thrown, slowly but surely it was coming back,” Buchholz said of his changeup. “I threw some changeups in some big situations tonight and got some swings and misses or weak contact, and the defense played really well behind me.”
“He really gained a feel for his changeup, which we felt all along was a key pitch for him,” Farrell said.
In addition to the changeup, Buchholz worked in his curveball, giving him confidence to throw his full arsenal of pitches — something he didn’t have in April and May.
“Early in the season, I was basically using two pitches — fastball and cutter. If you’re not on point with them, as far as the command and location of them, you’re going to get hit. Obviously, I wasn’t,” Buchholz said. “Whenever I can go to a changeup, curveball or cutter in the first pitch of the at-bat and just let them know that I’m going to throw all my pitches at them, it’s gotta be a little bit tougher to hit, rather than just sitting on one of two.”
As for what Buchholz’s start will mean long term, it’s hard to say. But in a rotation that’s somewhat in flux, the addition of an effective Buchholz would be welcome for the Red Sox.
“Confidence comes from results,” Buchholz said, “and the one result that everybody’s looking for as a starting pitcher is keeping your team in the game and getting a ‘W.’ So it’s a step in the right direction.”
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