Maybe it was the pressure? Maybe it was a case of everything finally clicking? Or maybe Clay Buchholz just needs more time to find his groove than most starting pitchers?
Regardless of the exact reason, there can be no question that Wednesday night in Chicago, the Boston Red Sox finally got the type of performance out of Clay Buchholz that they had needed, and expected all season.
Facing the American League’s best team on the road, Buchholz allowed a two-run home run to White Sox slugger Jose Abreu before recording the second out of the first inning, and then calmly settled into a groove that saw him hurl six scoreless innings, while allowing only one more hit along the way.
The only possible negative to Buchholz exceptional Wednesday night outing is that he’s going to make John Farrell’s decision about who stays and who goes in the Red Sox starting rotation much more difficult.
Buchholz was both efficient and effective. He needed only 98 pitches to get through seven innings. He allowed a total of three hits, walked two and struck out six.
This was a night when Buchholz had to be good. The White Sox have the best pitching in the league. The Red Sox have struggled against lefties all season, and Wednesday the White Sox were sending young lefty Carlos Rodon to the mound.
The Red Sox sport the best offense in the league, but facing a tough lefty on the road could have easily been a recipe for a very low-scoring affair.
Once Buchholz gave up two quick first inning runs, most Red Sox fans probably felt like they were in for a very long night.
Instead Buchholz settled into the type of groove the Red Sox have been looking for from him all season long. Meanwhile the Red Sox offense chipped away at Rodon and the White Sox two-run lead.
In the top of the third, Xander Bogaerts drove in Christian Vazquez with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 2-1.
In the top of the fifth Bogaerts drew a two-out walk, David Ortiz followed and pounced all over a 1-1 offering, driving it deep into the right field stands to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
The Red Sox tacked on additional runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Buchholz kept the White Sox off the board through seven, and then handed the ball off to a rested Koji Uehara who needed only 11 pitches to retire the White Sox in order in the eighth. Craig Kimbrel came on to pitch the ninth, he walked one, but still needed only 12 pitches to retire the White Sox and nail down the Red Sox ninth win over their last 12 contests.
After the game Red Sox manager John Farrell had nothing but good things to say about the start by Clay Buchholz.
Thursday night the Red Sox will try to win the rubber game of this three-game set against the White Sox.
Henry Owens (0-0, 4.82) will be on the mound for the Red Sox. Wednesday afternoon the White Sox designated veteran starter John Danks for assignment. Danks was originally scheduled to start Thursday night’s game. Instead that assignment will be given to recently promoted righty Erik Johnson. Johnson has made a total of 16 major league starts spread over parts of the last three seasons. He’s 7-4 with an ERA of 4.17. Johnson has an opportunity to be the White Sox fifth starter, and he’ll get his first shot at nailing down that role Thursday night.
First pitch is at 8:10 pm ET.