Buchholz bolsters Red Sox
He holds Indians to two hits while going the distance
CLEVELAND — Jon Lester is having the worst season of his career and Josh Beckett is the least popular athlete in Boston. It was even worse for poor Daniel Bard, who lost the ability to throw strikes and was sent to the minors.
Felix Doubront showed promise but is now worn out by a heavy workload and is getting a break.
The Red Sox rotation has been largely a disaster all season. But Clay Buchholz, who had his own problems early on, is shining through the gloom.
Buchholz was brilliant Friday night, throwing a complete-game two-hitter as the Red Sox beat the Indians, 3-2.
Buchholz (10-3) gave up one earned run and struck out six without a walk. He retired the last 12 Cleveland hitters he faced and 18 of the final 19. He hand-delivered a victory to a team desperate for one.
“That’s probably as good as he’s been all year. He’s really turned it around and pitched his butt off,” said Cody Ross, whose two-run home run in the sixth inning provided the winning runs.
Buchholz had a 9.09 earned run average after his first six starts and to that point had allowed 10 home runs. Every mistake was hit hard and Buchholz was walking to the mound expecting something bad to happen.
“You can’t be confident when you’re getting your brains beat in every night,” he said.
Manager Bobby Valentine kept Buchholz in the rotation and counseled the righthander to follow his own path and avoid the mistakes some veteran pitchers on the team had made on and off the field.
“I believed in him,” Valentine said. “But there were some doubting Thomases out there.”
Buchholz regained command of his changeup in May and built himself back up. He is 6-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 10 starts since June 1, a run that included a shutout of the Orioles June 7.
Friday’s game may have been better given that Buchholz never had a lead of more than two runs and was pitching to stop a three-game losing streak.
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had both hits, a home run in the first inning and a double in the fourth.
Cleveland scored its other run in the sixth inning because of some sloppy play in the field.
Jason Donald led off with a groundball to second base that Dustin Pedroia charged. The ball rolled under his glove for an error and rolled into center field.
When Donald took an aggressive turn around first base, Mike Aviles tried to throw behind him. But the throw bounced, hit Donald’s helmet and deflected into the stands. Donald was awarded third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ezequiel Carrera.
Buchholz did not put another runner on base. Of his 104 pitches, 72 were strikes.
“I was able to throw the cutter where I wanted to, the changeup was down all night,” Buchholz said. “Everything is working and rolling right now for me.”
Said Valentine: “I thought he was in control the whole way.”
Watching from right field, Ross marveled at how efficient Buchholz was.
“Lot of fun playing defense behind him,” Ross said. “He gets quick outs pounding the strike zone, lot of swing and misses and a lot of groundballs. That’s a pretty good recipe.”
Buchholz faced only 30 batters in recording the fifth complete game of his career. It was the second time he went nine innings and allowed two hits or less, the other game being his no-hitter against Baltimore in 2007.
The Indians started Chris Seddon, a 28-year-old lefthander who has spent the majority of his career in the minor leagues with four organizations.
Friday was his third game with Cleveland and second start. Seddon pitched better than his résumé suggested, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked two.
Aviles drew a walk with one out in the fourth inning, then went to third when Seddon threw away a pickoff attempt. With the infield in, Pedroia lined a single to left field.
It was only his 42d RBI of the season.
The Sox took a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. Pedroia had a single to center with one out.
With two outs, Ross got ahead in the count and hit a slider out to center field.
It was the 18th home run for Ross, his most since hitting 24 for the Marlins in 2009.
Ross said he was trying to hit the ball in the gap and “not get too big.” But he hit the ball 420 feet, well over the high wall in center.
The Red Sox were not too celebratory afterward.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who has had a strong rookie season, was taken to an area hospital after the game for X-rays on his right wrist.
Middlebrooks was hit by a 96-mile-per-hour fastball by Cleveland reliever Esmil Rogers in the ninth inning and left the game. According to a team source, he broke his wrist.
►Middlebrooks breaks right wrist. C8