|The Red Sox didn't hold back on their enthusiasm after Clay Buchholz finished off the Orioles in the ninth to complete his no-hitter. (DAVID KAMERMAN/GLOBE STAFF)|
Performance is a hit with teammates
The Red Sox didn't bother trying to contain their enthusiasm after Clay Buchholz's no-hitter in a 10-0 win over the Orioles last night.
"Watch out, Nolan Ryan!" center fielder Coco Crisp yelled at a television image of Buchholz in the Sox' clubhouse.
"I was fine until the last couple of outs, then my legs started shaking a little bit," Crisp said. "He finished the game great, with a strikeout, against the top of the order. It was pretty impressive. They have some pretty good hitters. He kept his composure and stayed focused, stayed with the game plan."
General manager Theo Epstein kept things in perspective after spending the last few innings concerned with Buchholz's pitch count (he finished with 115) as much as with the lack of a hit by the Orioles.
"That was the most fun I've had since I've been GM in a regular-season game, just because of the situation," Epstein said.
Epstein recalled the team's decision to select Buchholz with a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2005 draft.
"I was with the people who stuck their necks out," Epstein said. "It was an organization-wide win, an organization-wide achievement. [Scout] Jim Robinson in Texas said we've got to take him in the first round and I said I don't think we can do that. Then, [director of amateur scouting] Jason [McLeod] and I interrogated [Buchholz] in the outfield before the draft. He oozed athleticism and potential but he didn't have a changeup. He worked on that and fastball command in Double A. His fastball command was the best he's had in his life tonight.
"It was fun to watch. I am very proud of the organization, the scouts who recommended him, the coaching staff."
Epstein and manager Terry Francona communicated in the late innings concerning Buchholz's pitch count. His pickoff of Brian Roberts in the sixth inning aided Buchholz's efficiency. And Buchholz continued to be effective, striking out five of the last 10 batters, including Nick Markakis for the final out.
"He never threw more than 98 in his life and we couldn't let him throw 20 more pitches than he had ever thrown," Epstein said. "Tito would have had to take him out and blame me. He couldn't go more than 120. We are talking about a career here and it goes beyond the accomplishment of one night."
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia's stop on a Miguel Tejada grounder in the seventh preserved the no-hitter.
"I thought there was no chance," Crisp said. "The ball was hit up the middle, it looked like it was coming to me. He would have to dive for it and I thought he was going to flip it to [shortstop Julio Lugo]. It was one of the most exciting parts of the game."
Said Pedroia: "I was playing him straight up. I got a good jump on the ball and dove, and jumped up and threw as fast as I could. Before the sixth inning, I thought if the ball was hit to me, I was definitely going to get to it and make the play. He [first base umpire Ed Rapuano] delayed the call a little bit. I started running and I thought, 'What's going on?' Then he made the call. The ball was hit pretty hard and I lucked out there. I've never been a part of a no-hitter. In that situation, you want to make a great play. We all knew and everyone kind of shut up and played behind him. Everyone was focused on it."
Pedroia was especially empathetic about Buchholz's situation.
"Especially coming up last year [as a rookie], you want to do everything you possibly can to show your teammates you belong here," Pedroia said.
First baseman Kevin Youkilis had the easiest part of the play, which concluded with Tejada yelling and pointing at Pedroia.
"[Pedroia] made a great dive, I just stretched as far as I could," Youkilis said. "[Tejada] was just mad. It wasn't the no-hitter, he was robbed of a hit. All players get mad if they are robbed of a hit."
Asked if he wanted the ball hit to him, Youkilis said, "Totally. If the ball is hit to you, you make the play. If it's an error, it's not a big deal. To do that in his second outing is unbelievable. For a rookie to come up and do things like that is great. I was just as nervous. We thought we just have to make plays."