Clay Buchholz followed up last night’s one hit, complete game shutout by ace Jon Lester with a beauty of his own on an overcast and misty day at Fenway Park.
After rain delayed the start of the game for nearly an hour, the hard throwing Red Sox righty dealt for eight solid innings, yielding two runs on six hits with four strike outs. Turns out manager John Farrell pulled him from the game one batter too early, though.
Buchholz hit the showers after the 8th inning thinking he was going to take the loss as his light hitting teammates gave him no run support, but his spirits were bolstered as Jacoby Ellsbury tripled in catcher David Ross, then scored himself on shortstop Munenori Kawasaki’s error to tie the game at 2-2 going to the top of the ninth…
…he wouldn’t be in line for the decision, but he wouldn’t be taking a loss either – and the Red Sox offense had finally found a little forward momentum, tagging Jays’ reliever Darren Oliver for the two runs after being held in check all day by starter Mark Buehrle. Things were looking up.
Then interim closer Junichi Tazawa served up a 2-2 beach ball to the first hitter he saw, first baseman Adam Lind’s park job to the tarp in deep center sending the Sox to their seventh loss in nine games.
Casey Jannsen came on for Toronto in the ninth, serving up a double to Will Middlebrooks to open the frame, but settled down and retired the side for his 10th save in as many opportunities.
The extent of the damage to Buchholz was limited to RBI singles in the 3rd and 4th innings, while Buehrle pitched his way out of a couple of early jams to take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. After issuing a free pass to Ross to start the inning, he was hooked for Oliver and what was supposed to be a clean win for the 35 year old turned into a disappointing no decision.
Oliver took the win even though he gave up the tying run.
So now the Red Sox head into Sunday’s rubber match with the same questions regarding their lack of offense and a renewed anxiety regarding the closer’s role.
Joel Hanrahan is reported to now be out for the season and Andrew Bailey is still a week away from taking part in game action, so Tazawa’s beach ball to Lind – a slider that stayed right in the middle of the plate – has some concerned, though he recovered nicely to strike out the last two batters to keep the game close…
…but the Sox were again bitten by their propensity to fail in opportunities with men in scoring position. Boston had chances, but left two baserunners stranded in each of the opening two innings after having them on with one out, and Dustin Pedroia was thrown out trying to stretch a single in the third inning just before David Ortiz smacked a single to center that probably would have scored Pedroia.
In short, Saturday afternoon’s loss encapsulates the Red Sox’ woes for the past week: Solid starting pitching giving way to shaky relief appearances and the offense producing next to nothing in clutch situations.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of timing or of chemistry, but whatever it is, Farrell needs to find it quickly. After Sunday’s game at Fenway, the Sox have Monday off, then play twenty straight, with only six of those games at home – So if there is going to be a breakout from the current funk the Sox are in, they are going to have to do it on the road, where everything is more difficult..