Commentary

Clay Buchholz looks like Sox ace

Updated: July 20, 2012, 1:35 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz pitched so well in the series finale against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night at Fenway Park that he deserved the win.

Buchholz was outstanding in giving up just one run over eight innings, but he had to settle for a no-decision.

[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesClay Buchholz had all his pitches working Thursday at Fenway.

His teammates were held scoreless until the ninth inning, when Cody Ross provided a three-run homer for a 3-1 walk-off victory.

As Ross' homer landed in the Monster seats, Buchholz was in the clubhouse running around in celebration. What could have been his fourth loss of the season had suddenly turned into an acceptable no-decision.

Overall, Buchholz worked eight innings, allowed one run on six hits, walked one and struck out six. He tossed 107 pitches (76 strikes).

The only run he allowed came in the fourth when he issued a leadoff walk to the White Sox's Adam Dunn, who advanced to third on Paul Konerko's base hit to right field. Alex Rios then provided a sacrifice fly to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.

That's all the offense the White Sox could muster off of Buchholz.

"Clay was excellent," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "To walk a guy leading off the inning who walks 150 times a year is no fault. He made some good pitches on Dunn and then he came around to score after [the sacrifice fly], but other than that he was perfect. He had a good breaking ball, excellent fastball, both changeups were down and he was competitive the whole way. He looked great."

Despite a recent stint on the disabled list due to gastrointestinal bleeding that forced him to miss nearly a month between June 19 and July 14, Buchholz has been consistent and confident since the beginning of June.

"I've felt probably my last six starts, even if the results haven't been what you want them to be, I feel pretty confident in almost all of my pitches each time I go out," Buchholz said. "I think that plays a big key in going out and having success and keeping your team in a game like this. It's not a real easy lineup to pitch to if you don't have your good stuff that day."

Buchholz explained that in his last few outings his two-seam fastball has been as effective as it was during the 2010 season, when the right-hander posted a 17-7 record with a 2.33 ERA. He's been able to throw it on both sides of the plate, and when that pitch is working, that means his four-seam is just as dangerous.

In fact, it doesn't matter which pitch he throws because his entire repertoire has been effective of late. His changeup has been good and his curveball has been nasty.

"You're talking probably four 'plus' pitches. His sinker is as filthy as I've seen. His changeup/split, whatever he calls it, is nasty. Curveball, everything he throws up there is potential swing-and-miss and when he's going he's as tough as anybody in the league," Ross said. "He's proven that and he's starting to get that confidence and we need that."

As well as Buchholz pitched, he still exited the game with his team trailing 1-0. That's because Chicago starter Jose Quintana was also outstanding. The left-hander worked eight scoreless innings and allowed only five hits.

"The guy they had out there today threw a better game," Buchholz said. "Walks will kill you and I think every time I've walked a guy to lead off an inning, he seems to always come around to score. You'd rather have them earn their way on base, but with the power those two guys [Dunn and Konerko] have back-to-back, it's hard to give in to somebody like that and put a ball where they can put some good wood on it and hit it out. That was my thought process, but it's good to see the way the guys battled back."

With Quintana done for the night, Chicago's Matt Thornton started the ninth before giving way to rookie closer Addison Reed, who could not hold the one-run lead as Ross finished the night off in heroic fashion.

"I'm glad [Buchholz is] back on the team," said Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves, who picked up his first win of the season. "That's a good thing for him to come back and get on track and help this team to win. Clay Buchholz proved one more time that he's one of the best pitchers in baseball."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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