There are precious few things a Red Sox fan can look forward to these days. But a start by Clay Buchholz is one of them.
The righthander, hit hard early in the season, has been one of the best starters in the American League over the last three months. On a team that has been consistently disappointing, Buchholz has been reliably excellent.
On Wednesday night, he matched up against Angels ace Jered Weaver. But there was no drama to enjoy in this game. Buchholz made an early exit and the Angels cruised to a 7-3 victory.
Most in the announced crowd of 37,373 fled Fenway Park long before the final pitch as the Sox lost their third straight. They have dropped 10 of their last 14.
At 59-65, the Sox are six games under .500 this late in the season for the first time since 1997, when they finished 78-84. This team is on a pace to win 77 games.
“It’s tough,” Buchholz said after giving up seven runs. “Nobody comes here every day wanting to lose or thinking we’re going to lose. It’s just been happening that way.
“To have a team that everybody knows can be really, really good with the players that run out there every day makes it a little bit tougher. Just got to find a way these last couple of weeks.”
Weaver (16-3) and three relievers gave up 10 hits, but the Sox did little with them as a lineup missing David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks, and Carl Crawford continued to show little punch.
The Sox are 5 of 32 with runners in scoring position in their last five games, 3 for 11 on Wednesday night.
“We have good hitters and they’ll hit,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “It’s different, but we’re working it. I think we’re going to score plenty of runs.”
In what was his 100th appearance in the majors, Buchholz (11-4) had one of his worst performances. The seven runs matched his career high, as did the 12 hits he allowed.
Buchholz had allowed eight earned runs in his previous six starts.
“I think I made a couple of bad pitches and they hit them,” Buchholz said. “I’m not really disappointed in anything. Ball was up in the zone. You can’t throw pitches consistently up there and expect to get away with it with a team like that.”
The Angels scored two runs in the third inning. Singles by Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, and Chris Iannetta accounted for the first run. Aybar then scored when Mike Trout grounded into a double play.
Albert Pujols led off the fourth inning with a ball off the wall in left-center, advanced to third when Kendrys Morales grounded to shortstop, and scored on a single to center by Mark Trumbo.
Trumbo was thrown out stealing second on what appeared to be a botched hit-and-run. But Buchholz could not finish the inning cleanly. Howie Kendrick doubled to right field and scored on a single by Izturis.
Pujols, who was limping around the bases, left the game with a tight right calf. He was scheduled for an MRI and is questionable for the final game of the series on Thursday.
Buchholz did not survive the sixth inning. With one out, Kendrick hit a home run into the Monster Seats. Singles by Izturis and Aybar prompted Valentine to bring in righthander Junichi Tazawa.
Aybar, who was 1 for 18 against Buchholz in his career, had two hits off him this time.
Tazawa struck out Iannetta, but Trout reached on an infield single to load the bases. Torii Hunter drove in two runs with a single to right field to give the Angels a 7-2 lead.
Weaver, one of the best starters in baseball, had struggled against the Sox in his career, going 2-5 with a 4.41 earned run average in 11 starts. At Fenway, he was 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA in six starts.
Weaver also had allowed 12 earned runs over 10 innings against the Rays and Mariners in his last two starts. Perhaps the Red Sox were catching him at the right time.
It didn’t work out that way. Weaver put seven runners on base in the first four innings but gave up only two runs. They came in the fourth.
With two outs, Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and scored on a double off the wall in center by Ryan Lavarnway.
Lavarnway had been 4 for 32 without an RBI since being called up from Triple A Pawtucket Aug. 1.
Lavarnway scored on a double to left field by Mike Aviles. Pedro Ciriaco singled to left field, but Aviles had to stop at third. Scott Podsednik had a chance to drive in a run but grounded to second.
It was the start of a streak that would see Weaver retire nine batters in a row. Podsednik (3 for 5) broke that up with a single to left field with two outs in the seventh. He then stole second, but was stranded when Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to second.
That left Ellsbury 8 for 39 (.205) with runners in scoring position this season.
Dustin Pedroia singled, stole second, and scored on a throwing error in the eighth inning. But the Sox left two more runners on base, adding to a level of frustration that is building by the day.