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Closing Time: Red Sox, Clay Buchholz take another step forward against Blue Jays

06.01.12 at 10:07 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz might have finally found his groove.

One game after turning his best start of the season, Buchholz uncovered one better. The righty allowed just two solo home runs over eight innings on the way to earning the win in the Red Sox‘ 7-2 win over the Blue Jays Friday night at Rogers Centre. Over his last two starts, Buchholz — who threw 71 of his 108 pitches for strikes — has given up four runs over 15 innings. He also becomes the first pitcher ever to win six straight road starts against the Blue Jays.

The victory draws the Red Sox even with the Jays at 27-25, with both teams sitting three games behind first-place Tampa Bay.

Taking the loss for the Blue Jays was starter Henderson Alvarez, who had come into the game having allowed just one run in 12 innings pitched against the Red Sox. This time the Toronto righty gave up four runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox’ victory:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Buchholz’ stuff was electric for much of the night, with a fastball sitting at 94-95 mph, along with a much-improved changeup. The stuff translated into a season-high seven strikeouts, three of which came when he struck out the side in the sixth. Buchholz got Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista to fan three times.

- Daniel Nava continued to impress, notching four more hits (three doubles) to improve his batting average to .314. Nava also scored three times, while making it 5-1 with a fifth inning, run-scoring two-bagger. Adrian Gonzalez was the other member of the Red Sox’ lineup to come away with at least three hits, which included two RBI singles. For Gonzalez, it was his fifth three-hit came of the season.

- David Ortiz might not want to be in the Home Run Derby this season, but he sure doesn’t act like it. The Red Sox’ DH hit another homer, this one a solo shot that led off the second inning and gave the visitors a 1-0 lead. It was Ortiz’ 13th of the season. The designated hitter added one more RBI before the night was over, singling in Gonzalez for the Sox’ final run, in the seventh. The run-scoring blast to left came against Toronto lefty Luis Perez, who had allowed just four hits in 39 at-bats to left-handed hitters coming into the contest.

- The Red Sox finished the night going 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position, highlighting the performance with a four-run seventh inning.

- For the first time this season, the opposition put a shift on Will Middlebrooks. For his first three at-bats, it paid off for the Blue Jays, with the rookie grounding out to the left side in each of his trips. But in the fourth at-bat, Middlebrooks took the ball the other way, rifling a single into right-center field to up his batting average to .313.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- The first home run allowed by Buchholz — coming off the bat of Yunel Escobar in the third inning, was a very poorly placed changeup, finding the heart of the strike zone. Escobar clearly felt good about his third homer of the season, taking a very long time to round the bases.

- After Alvarez was shaken up via a Mike Aviles grounder off the pitcher’s shin, which brought out the Blue Jays’ trainers and manager John Farrell, the Red Sox couldn’t taken advantage of a clearly distracted pitcher. The Sox chose to try and take advantage of Alvarez’ uneasiness by calling for a hit-and-run with Nick Punto instead of testing the hurler’s wheels with a bunt. The result was a 4-6-3 double play on the first pitcher Punto saw.

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