Sunday, August 30, 2009

Clay Steps Up

On the unfortunate news that Tim Wakefield will miss his next start, the Sox needed some good pitching news. And they got it from their young, if uneven, wunderkind en route to a 3-2 win over Toronto.

Clay Buchholz had the best outing of his career so far. He went 8.1 innings and gave up just one run on three hits while striking out nine. His Game Score was 80; the only one higher in his entire career was the 93 he had on his no-hitter in 2007. He threw 63% of his pitches for strikes and threw a first-pitch strike to 83% of the batters he faced. Clay had his fastabll working and was using his changeup to deadly effect. Not only was he using it to get batters out, he was throwing it as a first pitch as well. His curve was sensational. If this was the kind of game Buchholz could crank out on a regular basis...well, I think Boston would feel more secure in their pitching.

There is one caveat to this praise. Clay has won three games this year, and all three wins are against Toronto. He absolutely owns this team for whatever reason. So while it was a great outing and indicative of the talent that Clay possesses, it would be nice to see him win against another team. But the bottom line is Clay pitched a great game and the Sox have won nine of their last twelve games.

They almost didn't, though. With Boston leading 3-0, Clay kicked off the top of the ninth with a sharp single and a line out to short that Gonzalez snagged. Both were hit hard but the Sox were now just two outs from a win and Clay getting a complete game shutout. Instead, Tito came out to pull Buchholz and insert Okajima.

Now, I love Tito as manager and support almost everything he does. But I didn't like that call yesterday. Clay deserved the chance to close that game out. And I think the Baseball Gods agreed. Because Okajima came on, gave up a double and a single, and just like that the Sox were ahead by a slender 3-2 margin with a runner on first. So the closer came on. And with the off-season trade rumors swirling around him (even Jerry Remy has mentioned them), Papelbon closed it out with a clean 2/3 of an inning for his 32nd save of the year.

The top of the lineup was productive yesterday. Ellsbury went 2-5 with a run scored, Pedroia went 3-4 with a RBI and V-Mart also went 3-4 with a RBI. In a rare turn of events, no one hit a homerun yesterday. All in all, the Boston lineup cranked out 10 hits yesterday, which I consider a good day's work.

And so we come to today and a chance for the Sox to sweep the Jays. But it won't be easy. The Sox are calling Paul Byrd to the mound after signing him to a minor league deal on August 5. He went 0-1 in two starts down in the Bucket with a 3.27 ERA, 11 innings pitched and seven strikeouts against one walk. Batters only hit .220 against him, so maybe he can help the Sox out down the stretch. But he goes against Toronto's ace, Doc Halladay. But this isn't the same devastating pitcher from the first half of the year. He's lost three of his last five games, including a 6-1 loss to the Sox on August 19. Ever since he wasn't traded by the deadline, Halladay has looked like a different pitcher. I think Toronto has to move him in the off-season because he isn't going to the be the old Halladay for them anymore, in my opinion.

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