Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Buchholz Takes The Next Step

I think the kid finally gets it. I really do.


Not a month ago plenty of Sox fans were angered that Boston didn't use Buchholz to bring back a pitcher like Halladay. Yesterday Buchholz showed all of them why Theo has been against trading him for the past two years.


With the Yankees winning like their lives depended on it and the Rangers hanging on like grim death, the Sox have to win, win, and then win some more. Buchholz got them off to a good start, spearheading a 10-0 hammering of the Orioles at Fenway with a strong performance on the mound.


Buchholz went seven innings, allowing no runs on three hits and striking out five. He was dominant, working his nasty curve, change and fastball to brutal effect. He had a perfect game going into the fourth inning before walking Felix Pie with one out. At no point did the Orioles ever threaten to do more than flail at the ball. Only one runner made it as far as second during Clay's seven innings. It was as good a performance as Buchholz has had all year. He has now won four straight decisions in five outings, lowering his ERA from 5.02 to 3.92 in the process. If Beckett can continue to get back in form and Lester continues dominating, the Sox may have a better starting staff than we all thought.


And it was nice to see Tito give Bowden a couple of innings to get his confidence back. The last time he took the mound was in that ridiculous 20-11 loss to the Yankees where Bowden gave up seven runs in two innings. This time Bowden allowed just two hits in two innings and walked none. Bowden has some real talent, so an outing like this is important to remind him of that fact.


Buchholz was also helped by the lineup busting out the whoop-ass sticks last night. The Sox hit six home runs last night and nine of their ten runs came from homers. The biggest one was Ortiz's solo shot in the seventh, not because it put the Sox up 10-0 but because with it he tied Frank Thomas for the most home runs ever by a DH. The homer was Ortiz's 269th as a DH and the next one (obviously) gives him the record. I'll be interested to see how it is celebrated when it occurs, what with the controversy from earlier this year.


Everyone seemed to get in the act last night. It started right away, with Ellsbury getting a walk and then Pedroia hitting his first of two homers last night to left to make it 2-0. Youk, Gonzalez and Drew also got into the homer act last night. I was impressed with Gonzalez's shot, a frozen rope over the Monster in the second inning. He has some power. For the year now he is batting .289 since coming to Boston with a .795 OPS. Is anyone still complaining about trading for him (yes, there were some complaints, believe it or not) ?


Drew's three-run shot in the third was the one that turned a lead into a rout at 8-0. It was also his 20th homer of the year, the first time Drew has reached the 20 homer plateau since his 2006 stint with the Dodgers. That's all well and good, but for $14M per year I'm expecting a little more than that. Has anyone ever done less with more? Here's a guy with talent most people dream of, and he's done nothing. 11 years into his career he's cracked 100 runs in season just once. He has never had 200+ hits in a season. He has hit 30+ homers once. He has hit .300+ over a season twice. By comparison, Pedroia has been in the majors four years and has matched or exceeded all those stats except for the homers. Just pointing it out is all.


The only downside to last night is that the Rangers made up a half-game in the wild-card by winning both ends of a double-header. Not much you can do about that but to keep on winning. Tonight the Sox send Paul Byrd to the mound against Jason Berken. Berken is 4-11 with a 6.07 ERA this year and a 1.68 WHIP. Boston clobbered him on August 2, chasing him in just 1.1 innings with six runs on seven hits. Since then he has improved somewhat, including holding the Yanks to just one run in 5.1 innings in his last outing. As for Byrd...when his location is on and he can mix his pitches, he can shut a team down. When he hangs the pitches over the plate...well, you get something like that seven-run, ten-hit debacle in Chicago. It could be a scoring explosion tonight in Fenway. Bring a book, because the game will probably go over three hours.

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