Unfortunately for him, he has just one win to show for it.
Buchholz put together his best start Saturday since his no-hitter against the Orioles last September 1, but his brilliant effort went for naught when he gave up a two-run homer to Akinori Iwamura with two outs in the bottom of the eighth as the Rays edged the skidding Red Sox, 2-1, in front of 36,048 in St. Petersburg, FL.
"Clay was great," Terry Francona told reporters afterward. "He just gave up a home run when we didn't need him to. Clay stayed in his delivery the entire game. I thought he actually got stronger as the game went on."
Buchholz had a one-hitter entering the eighth and retired 19 of 20 batters after consecutive walks in the first. The only batter to reach in that span was B.J. Upton, who put to rest any hopes of a second no-hitter by Buchholz by doubling to lead off the fourth.
"You could see as the game progressed he was coming off the mound with something," Francona said. "Jumping off the mound in his delivery. He was aggressive, his changeup was fun to watch. It's the kind of pitching that maybe [won't result] in a two- or three-hitter every time, but that's the kind of pitcher you need. His stuff was electric."
But with one out in the eighth, Dioner Navarro singled. After Jason Bartlett flew out, Iwamura hit a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for a two-run homer.
"Overall, I felt great tonight," Buchholz told reporters. "Just a little misfortune, I guess."
Buchholz , who recorded the final out of the eighth and was credited with a complete game, struck out nine and threw a 113 pitches (two shy of his career-high set in the no-hitter against the Orioles), including 76 for strikes. His sterling effort Saturday came on the heels of an impressive win over the Rangers Monday in which Buchholz allowed five hits and two walks while striking out six over six shutout innings. Those two outings have lowered Buchholz' ERA from 6.75 to 4.08.
The Sox, who were limited to five hits by a quartet of Rays pitchers, went down in order on just nine pitches against Troy Percival in the ninth inning. The Sox put a runner on base in five of seven innings against Rays starter Edwin Jackson but got a runner beyond second only in the fifth, when Coco Crisp singled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's infield single.
Ellsbury was the only player with two hits for the Sox, who have lost a season-high four in a row—their longest losing streak since they dropped four straight to the Yankees and Blue Jays last Sept. 16-19. The Sox will attempt to avoid the sweep today, when they complete the brief three-game road trip and send staff ace Josh Beckett to the mound against the Rays.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.
Brilliance Not Enough For Buchholz
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