It is happening.
Clay Buchholz, that mercurial, impossible to predict, on-again, off-again, veteran starting pitcher who drives Red Sox fans nuts, is back in his happy place.
Even if you’re going to minimize the significance of shutting down the last-place Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, there’s no way to ignore his start last Thursday against the Detroit Tigers.
Both games were road games, both games were important because when you’re locked in a three-team race for the AL East crown in late August, every game is to an extent significant.
What has Buchholz done?
Two starts, 12.1 innings pitched, 11 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and 12 strikeouts. That’s an ERA of 1.46 and a whip ratio of 1.05. Both stats are more than good enough to rationalize sending Buchholz back to the mound for another start, regardless of the health of Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
That’s just how it is right now. He’s that good. For those that think this is unprecedented, or has zero chance of lasting, think again.
Buchholz can be very good. He hasn’t been that often, and since the first half of 2013 he’s been either hurt, awful, or a combination of both.
That 2013 season might feel like it happened a long time ago, but in reality it was just over three years ago. Buchholz wasn’t just good for the first two-plus months of 2013, he was Cy Young caliber dominant.
His last start prior to his injury was on June 8th against the Los Angeles Angels. Buchholz got the win. At that point in the season he was 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71. He had pitched 84.1 innings, struck out 81 batters and had a whip ratio of 1.020. Was he consistent?
Through 12 starts he had allowed more than two earned runs just once. On May 6, the Twins scored four earned runs off him over six innings. That was his worst start.
It was without question a dominant first half, and the Red Sox really needed it too. That 2013 squad had plenty of starting pitching, but the big names, Jon Lester and John Lackey didn’t really find their grooves until after the All-Star break.
It was Buchholz who carried the eventual 2013 World Series champs through the first two-plus months of that championship season.
Now, when just about everyone is least expecting it, he’s starting to look a lot like that guy again. The guy who was an All-Star and one of the best pitchers in the American League until an injury forced him to miss over three months of the 2013 season.
This season Buchholz has already been hurt. He’s already been a bad starter, a mediocre relief pitcher, and now, he’s strung together back-to-back exceptional starts and at a time when the team really needed it.
A bullpen that is at-best on-and-off. A pair of injured starting pitchers. A stretch of 23 straight games and within that stretch an 11-game road trip.
Yep, that’s Clay Buchholz, coming up big when the 2016 team really needed him to come-up big.
You really can’t predict baseball.