Buchholz’s mastery and Kalish’s slam give Sox a charge
Dustin Pedroia got the ovation to start, when he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning. But by the end the game, the cheers were for Clay Buchholz, the pitcher who continues to prove his worth with each start — even the ones in which he doesn’t have his best command.
Buchholz shut the Angels down last night at Fenway Park as the Red Sox won, 6-0. Just 64 of his 113 pitches were strikes, so one might have expected him to have allowed more than five hits or more than two walks over the seven innings he worked. But he didn’t, improving to 14-5 and helping the Sox keep pace with their rivals in the American League East.
“He actually didn’t throw a ton of strikes, but he wasn’t afraid of contact,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “His stuff was tremendous, his fastball had real good finish to it. When he got down in the count, and he did it quite a few times, he’d get back into it and get some contact and keep them off the barrel. Pretty good.’’
Buchholz has inserted his name into the conversation for the Cy Young Award with 13 wins in his last 15 starts and an ERA of 2.36.
“You look up and you see a bunch of zeros, but . . . just a little over 50 percent strikes,’’ Francona said. “But he made a lot of good pitches.
“There was a chance if he made a bad pitch with the bases loaded [in the sixth] that the game goes a little different. He looked like he wasn’t making all his pitches, but he didn’t seem like he was out of control or anything. He gathered himself and he’d make a good pitch.’’
The Sox backed him by doing damage to both a back windshield and Jered Weaver’s ERA.
Adrian Beltre attempted to get the Sox on the board in the second, belting one to right, but Torii Hunter went back, bent over the wall, and nabbed the ball. It was a spectacular catch, a reminder that Hunter still can flash the leather, even if the Angels recently moved him from center to right.
“Unfortunately he can play right field too,’’ Francona said. “It’s not the easiest place to jump, the way that wall is. Tremendous outfielder.’’
The Sox’ next two tries for homers? Those went out.
In the third Darnell McDonald rocketed one over the Green Monster and into the back seat of a car with Rhode Island plates in a garage across Lansdowne Street. It was the first hit and the first run allowed by Weaver, the league leader in strikeouts and among the best pitchers in the American League this season.
But it was the next Boston blast, a grand slam in the fourth by Ryan Kalish into the Sox bullpen, that had the greatest impact.
“It was unreal,’’ Kalish said. “Shoot, if I had hit it a little bit more to my right, I would have been real nervous with [Hunter] out there.’’
A David Ortiz single and two-out walks to J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell preceded Kalish’s shot. It was the second homer of Kalish’s career and his first slam, and it was only the fourth time this season Weaver had given up at least five runs.
Buchholz was still going strong, though it wasn’t entirely a breeze. In that sixth inning, he gave up singles to Alberto Callaspo and Hunter and walked Hideki Matsui. But he got Erick Aybar to ground to first.
And so he continued a run that had Pedroia, who returned last night from his broken foot, calling Buchholz, “one of the best pitchers in the game.’’
Buchholz, who was stepped on by Maicer Izturis in the first inning while covering on a grounder to first, said, “To hold that team to no runs any day, that’s a pretty big feat I think, just because of the guys that they have, the power they can produce on any given night, and they can score a whole lot of runs.
“Just pitching at this level, it’s tough sometimes. You go out there and won’t have your good stuff and you have to find a way through it. I think that’s the name of the game. That’s what pitchers are called pitchers for — if they can go out there and execute on a given night where you don’t have your best stuff or don’t have the location that you normally do.’’