I'll be honest; I had serious doubts Clay Buchholz would ever tap into his obvious wellspring of pitching talent. I had no problems entertaining ideas about him on the trading block. He looked like the proverbial player who just never quite plays up to his ability.
Well, I was wrong. Theo Epstein kept the faith and this year he has been rewarded by a breakout season (so far) from Buchholz. Clay picked up his 10th win of the year last night with a 2-0 Boston win over the Dodgers to complete a nine-game homestand with an 8-1 record.
Buchholz had a good outing, going 6 2/3 shutout innings and allowing just three hits. But it wasn't a dominant outing; Clay threw 30 pitches in the first inning and 106 overall in those 6 2/3 innings. He threw first-pitch strikes to only half the batters he faced. But he won, and this is the kind of game he would have lost a year ago. Clay is tied with Hughes and Price for wins in the AL and is third in ERA (2.47). If you dig into some of the other, more obscure stats, Clay matches up favorably with Hughes and Price. Which is my way of saying that even if he shouldn't be the starter, Clay deserves to be on the AL pitching staff for the All-Star game.
Bard and Papelbon finished the game off. Bard got his 15th hold of the year and Paps got his 16th save. There has been talk recently of watching Bard's innings. Last year he threw 49.1 innings. So far this year he has thrown 36.2 innings. I am always of two minds about this stuff. On the one hand, all you have to do is see how Dusty Baker lays waste to talented young pitchers to know that this is a concern worth having. On the other hand...shouldn't a young pitcher be able to handle a heavier workload without counting each 1/3 of an inning like it's spun gold? All I know is that Bard has a great arm and I would hate to see him not used in key situations because of some abstract metric.
Pedroia and Scutaro scored Boston's two runs, knocked in by Youk and Papi respectively. Here we are, not quite at the break, and Papi has hit 15 homers and collected 46 RBI. He has a .260 BA and a .921 OPS. If he kept up this pace he'd come close to cracking 40 homers and 120 RBI on the season. Would anyone object to a season like that? This makes Theo's decision in the off-season regarding Papi that much harder. Is this indicative of future performance or that all-too-common "one last good season" a lot of players have before they fall off the cliff?
Boston gets an off-day today so they can travel to Colorado to face the Rockies. Hopefully their dominance of NL opposition will continue.