Clay Buchholz allowed two runs on six hits over 7.2 innings for the win Thursday night. He walked two and struck out 10. Buchholz is the first pitcher in the majors to get to five victories this season.
“Things are going right right now,” Buchholz said. “When a ball’s hit, even a hard ball, it seems like it’s right at somebody. That doesn’t happen like that all the time, so you have to savor it while it is.”
Buchholz has pitched at least seven innings in each of his starts and has yet to allow more than two earned runs. The last major leaguer to do that in the first five starts of a season was Livan Hernandez in 2002.
How unusual is Buchholz’s 1.19 earned run average after five starts? The last Red Sox pitcher to go lower was Roger Clemens, who was at 0.66 after five starts in 1991. The Rocket went on to win the Cy Young Award that season.
The return of John Farrell as manager has clearly made a difference. In the two years Farrell was away managing Toronto, Buchholz struggled early in the season. He had an 8.69 ERA after five starts last season, 5.33 after five starts in 2011.
“Past couple of years I’ve been a slow starter,” he said. “It feels good to get out there and following up spring training with a little bit of confidence and not feeling like there’s anything that I have to fix.”
Buchholz and Jon Lester are 9-0 with a 1.69 earned run average. The Sox have won all 10 games they have started. Led by their top two starters, the Red Sox have been in first place for 26 consecutive days. That is a team record to start the season.
• Daniel Bard pitched an uneventful ninth inning, allowing a two-out single before getting a grounder back to the mound in his season debut. He threw 18 pitches, 10 for strikes, and hit 96 m.p.h. with his fastball. “Aggressive,” Farrell said. “Attacked the strike zone. [Umpire] Tim McClelland notoriously has a pretty tight strike zone but he looked free and easy, looked confident. That was a good inning of work and a very encouraging one.”
• The Sox said 4,800 fans attended the game on free tickets given out by the team as a reward for those who sat through the rain on Tuesday or skipped that game entirely. In all, approximately 6,200 took the offer over two days.
• Mike Napoli has 16 extra-base hits this month, tying the April team record set by Jose Offerman in 1999.
• David Ortiz’s home run was his first since July 13 and his first at Fenway since last June 27.