From the first at-bat when he dealt Toronto's Jose Bautista a curveball that nearly had him jumping out of the batter's box, Clay Buchholz dealt.
He came within an inning of pitching his first shutout since his the gift-and-curse no-hitter in 2007 against Baltimore, going 8 1/3innings and matching his career high with nine strikeouts in the Sox's 3-2 win.
Fans booed when Terry Francona took him off the mound, and for Buchholz, throwing so well made him think about how far he's come in two years.
"I'm a pitcher," he said. "That's the big difference from when I got up here. The adversity that I'd never faced and didn't think I was going to face coming here was a big step for me. Being able to know what I want to throw before each hitter or after a pitch is make knowing I'm going to throw the next pitch is a huge thing for me to be confident in throwing pitches."
He wanted to finish off the ninth, but he understood why Francona came to get him. He talked about his maturation process -- one that isn't complete, but may have reached a checkpoint tonight.
"When I got up here and I was new to the big leagues, 'Tek put down a sign and I just grabbed it and threw it," Buchholz said. "That's where I got in trouble. Being hit a little bit and not knowing how to respond to it. Now I think I've evolved into a pitcher instead of just being able to go out there and throw a ball."