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Clay Buchholz: ‘I don’t feel any different than last year’

04.08.13 at 8:50 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz was back in form during Monday's home opener and impressed Red Sox fans and his manager. (AP)

Clay Buchholz says he doesn’t feel that different than the start of 2012.

But the numbers and the eye test both tell a different story.

In his first two starts of 2012, the right-hander was 1-0 with a 9.82 ERA.

After shutting out the Orioles on three hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out eight, Buchholz earned his second win of 2013 in as many starts Monday. He is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA, matching the 2-0 record of Jon Lester.

“I don’t feel any different than I did last year,” Buchholz said. “Just little things that didn’t go right [last year] and it definitely makes it easier whenever you have somebody like Jonny going out the day before you and throwing [well], it’s something for you to feed off of. It’s better than being 0-2. You have to keep everything on an even keel I think and try not to get too high and don’t get overconfident with it. Just go out and do your work and that’s what I’m going to lead with.”

With Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen matching zeroes with Buchholz, the pressure was on Buchholz heading into the seventh.

Matt Wieters worked a walk to open the inning. But Buchholz zeroed in. He fanned J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce, sandwiched around a ground out from Ryan Flaherty. His day was over after 113 pitches, 65 strikes. Some eyebrows were raised as Buchholz was allowed the chance to finish the inning, despite a pitch count approaching 100 in the seventh.

“That’s Clay’s ballgame,” skipper John Farrell said. “I felt like he earned that right to get through it. His stuff didn’t diminish. He showed the ability to make big pitches in key moments. It wasn’t like he was losing command or the fastball was becoming elevated. He stayed sharp throughout. More than anything that was his inning to finish.”

Finish is exactly what Buchholz did in strong fashion, blowing away Hardy (looking) and Pearce (swinging) on 93 MPH fastballs.

“Always good to win,” Buchholz said. “I think after that seventh inning when I went out there, it’s sort of inning-by-inning by each [starter]. It’s tough. Each out you do get going up to that point [is important]. You just don’t want runners to get on because all it takes is one pitch like you saw. It’s a fun game to pitch in, especially whenever you come out on top in the end.

“I didn’t really have one thing that was working the whole day. I was up in the zone. There was a couple balls hit early that would have gotten out, but stayed in the park. Other than that, it was sort of a grind there for a little bit.”

What helped him grind through was a picture-perfect two-seamer that was coming back over the inside corner to lefties and starting outside and catching the outside corner against righties.

“That little two-seamer to lefties,” Buchholz said. “They were running a lot of lefties up there, so with that short porch to left, just didn’t want to live out over the plate because just about all of them can take you deep. I was able to throw a couple of good cutters just for purpose pitches and then throw that two-seamer in off the plate and then let it run back. Threw a couple of good two-seamers today in that fashion, but there wasn’t just one pitch that I had working the whole time.

“I actually felt better pitching out of the stretch today,” Buchholz said. “I felt like the tempo was better. Obviously, you don’t want runners on base because that leads to multiple things. But being able to slow the game down in that way, taking some moving parts out of it, and being set over the rubber and throwing pitches, I don’t know what the reason was but I felt better out of the stretch, felt more under control. It makes it stressful to have runners on base all the time but had some pretty sold defensive plays behind me, too. So that’s where the pitching to contact comes in.”

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, MLB
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