Every pitcher has a team he loves to see. Roger Clemens enjoyed destroying the Royals (25-7 lifetime). Pedro salivated whenever he pitched against Seattle (13-1, 1.57 ERA, 0.854 WHIP). El Tiante? A perfect 9-0 lifetime against the Blue Jays.
Which fittingly leads us to Clay Buchholz. In his short career, Clay seems to enjoy pitching against Toronto more than any other team. He made that clear once again last night by leading the Sox to a 2-1 win over the Jays. The win pushed the Sox past Toronto into third place even though they are both at 10-11 (thanks, alphabetical order!) and they are three back of the Yankees for second place. Baby steps...
The Boston pen needed a breather and Buchholz gave it to them and then some. Clay went eight innings and allowed just one run on seven hits and that run came in the first inning. He struck out four and walked two. Clay threw over 68% of his pitches for strikes and got first-pitch strikes on 23 of the 33 batters he faced. Clay was locked in last night and looked every bit of the phenom Boston fans have been hoping he would become. Even better, Ramon Ramirez pitched the ninth inning in a tight game and actually didn't allow a run, earning his first save of the season.
Clay needed to be on his game because Shaun Marcum was on his. He held Boston to one run over seven innings, something that helped make this one of Boston's fastest games of the year (2:49). But Marcum came out for Scott Downs in the eighth. Downs loaded the bases with two outs and then walked in Lowell for the winning run. For those of you keeping track, Boston has won six of their last eight games and all the wins have been by a single run. The last time Boston won by two or more runs was on April 14 when they beat the Twins 6-3.
The hitting was sparse, as it tends to be in a pitcher's duel. But Pedroia went 2-5, scored a run and boosted his average over .300 as that mini-slump is now a thing of the past. And David Ortiz went 0-2, but drew a walk in the second and scored Boston's first run on a single from Hermida.
The Sox are now 5-3 on the road and have another chance to reach .500 overall if they can win tonight. Jon Lester is taking the mound against Brett Cecil. The Sox beat the holy hell out of Cecil in two matchups last year, leaving him 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA against the Sox for his career. Sounds like an easy win, but with Lester's early struggles you can't be sure of anything right now.