After faltering midway through his Friday start against Kansas City, Clay Buchholz regrouped to keep the Red Sox in the game as the Sox came back for four runs in the sixth inning to beat the Royals 5-4.
The righthander’s final line on the night was six innings pitched, giving up four runs on 10 hits with no walks and three strikeouts, good enough to grab his fifth win of the season.
Buchholz struck out the first batter he saw on the night, getting Lorenzo Cain swinging to start the game, before Omar Infante lined a ball off the Green Monster ladder for a double. Infante came around to score on a wall-ball single by Eric Hosmer, but Salvador Perez lined out to left and Hosmer was caught stealing with Alex Gordon at the plate.
Buchholz rolled through the top of the second, downing the Royals 1-2-3 on 10 pitches. He picked up another 1-2-3 in the third, retiring Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki, and Cain on groundouts, having recorded eight consecutive outs without the Royals reaching base.
He ran into some trouble in the fourth, as Infante led off with a single and Hosmer hit a bullet down the right field line that was ruled a ground rule double when the ball attendant interfered with the ball. The Royals got their lead back when Perez singled to right and scored Infante from third and doubled it on a single by Gordon to plate Hosmer and make it 3-1. Billy Butler hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Gordon at second, and Mike Moustakas hit into one that got Perez in a rundown that saw him retired. Alcides Escobar then flew out to left to stop the bleeding and keep the Sox down just two.
Aoki led off the fifth with a single to center after Buchholz got him down 0-2, then stole second base as Cain struck out looking. Infante flew out to left for the second out of the inning, but Aoki scored on a single by Hosmer after reaching third on a passed ball during Hosmer’s at bat. Perez singled to move Hosmer up to scoring position, but Gordon grounded out to first to end the half inning with Kansas City up 4-1.
Things got a little better for Buchholz in the sixth, as Butler led off with a single, but after Moustakas flew out to right, Escobar lined out to right, and Butler grounded back to Buchholz, the Sox starter escaped without giving up any more runs.
Buchholz got in line for the win after two-run homers by Xander Bogaerts and Jonny Gomes turned a 4-1 Sox deficit into a 5-4 lead. Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless seventh inning; Junichi Tazawa got out of a runner on second, no-outs jam in the eighth; and Koji Uehara shut the door in the ninth to give Buchholz his fifth win of the year.
Buchholz seems to have righted whatever ailed him during the first two months of the regular season, winning three of the five starts he has made since coming off the DL in late June.
Buchholz’s control has been much better, as he’s walked just one batter in the 35 2/3 innings he’s worked in that span, while his season ERA has plummeted from 7.02 when he was placed on the DL to 5.46 after Friday’s win.
The Red Sox may be all but out of contention in 2014, but the fact that Buchholz has been able to string together a bunch of strong starts is nothing but good news for the Sox moving forward.