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Clay Buchholz: ‘I felt good all the way through’

04.14.13 at 6:05 pm ET
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Relaxation can be a wonderful thing for a starting pitcher. For Clay Buchholz it was the key to nearly repeating history.

Buchholz had the most dominant of his three outstanding outings so far this year, holding the Rays hitless for the first seven innings, allowing just two hits over eight scoreless frames and improving to 3-0 in a 5-0 win Sunday at Fenway Park. Buchholz lowered his ERA to 0.41 and has allowed just one earned run in 22 innings this season.

“Well, I felt pretty relaxed,” Buchholz said after Sunday’s masterpiece. “It’s an easy clubhouse to be relaxed. Everyone jells really well. I didn’t feel much different than any other day.”

But he admitted after his 109-pitch gem over eight innings that it was a lot more relaxing than the last time he seriously flirted with a no-hitter at Fenway.

“A lot more [relaxed] than the other time it happened [Sept. 1, 2007]. I was basically going out every inning after every pitch, telling myself to make a pitch and don’t worry about anything else. I felt good all the way through.”

Buchholz explained why was it so different than Sept. 2007, when Jason Varitek all but held the rookie right-hander’s hand through a dismantling of the Baltimore lineup.

“Because I had captain behind the plate and I didn’t want to shake him off because I was scared of him,” Buchholz said.

Skipper John Farrell had a good feeling from the start on Buchholz, who had 99 pitches after seven innings and was starting to approach that red-line area for pitchers early in the season.

“He had four pitches working for strikes,” Farrell said. “I think he struck out guys on four different types of pitches. After the seventh inning, the pitch-count is climbing. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy to walk out there with him with a no-hitter in tact. But on a day when we needed a starter to go deep in a game, he did that for us. An outstanding outing on his part. He made some key pitches, particularly in that sixth inning where things started to get a little extended. It was about a 22-pitch inning for him. He continued to make outstanding pitches throughout the course of the day.

“I think think the only thing we can speak to is the feel in the dugout. And after the fifth inning, you start to get a sense with each out recorded. Obviously, the crowd was getting into it.”

Farrell was never forced to make to the ultimate tough decision, hinting after the game that he would not have allowed Buchholz to get into the high-120s in pitch count.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know, will we?,” Farrell said with a laugh of relief.

The biggest key Sunday was not just first-pitch strikes but what he was using all day to get ahead of the Tampa Bay batters.

“I was able to throw first-pitch curveballs for strikes a lot today,” Buchholz said.

But that may have led to his undoing in trying to throw the second no-hitter of his career. Kelly Johnson opened the eighth inning by taking a curve for strike one. Then Buchholz went back inside to the left-handed hitting left fielder. The pitch didn’t quite get in on the hands enough and Johnson was able to get around, breaking his bat in the process, and dump a clean single over the head of Mike Napoli into right field.

“The second one I threw him it was basically supposed to be a purpose pitch, just to make it fall right on top the plate and see if we get a swing. I didn’t quite get it there and he was able to put the bat on it. It was just one of those things.

“I haven’t even seen it. When I released it, it felt like it was going to be a good pitch but obviously, I left it close enough to the zone if it wasn’t in the hitting zone, for him to get a bat on it,” Buchholz said.

“I know Kelly, I’€™ve played against him, played with him. I know he’€™s a good fastball hitter, so we stuck with our game-plan of getting ahead with some breaking balls trying to keep him off of it,” Buchholz’ battery mate Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Earlier in the game we were pounding him in. He hadn’€™t really looked too good on that curveball so I think that’€™s why we wanted to go back-to-back with it. Tip your cap, he broke his bat and it fell in.”

The Tampa Bay outfielder was just looking for something to work with.

“I was pretty aware at that point. My thinking just on how I was feeling was that I needed to do something different,” Johnson said. “I put my back foot a tad closer to home plate and picked up a Sam Fuld model bat. He threw me two breaking balls, I really was not expecting that. But I was in a good enough position the second time around to at least make some contact, even if it was a broken bat, obviously.

“I don’t know if anybody else was thinking it, but I certainly was thinking he had no-hit stuff today after my first AB, so pretty special outing for him.”

Buchholz did walk four batters while striking out 11 on the day.

“The frustrating thing about it was the walks,” Buchholz said. “I felt that way throughout the whole game, being able to throw fastball to both sides of the plate, cutter to both sides of the plate and curveball to both sides of the plate for most of the day. A couple of the walks, a four-pitch walk, sort of eats at me. Don’t really like to do that. But the for the most part, it’s fun to go out there and pitch when you have all your pitches working. It doesn’t happen every day, probably five times a season it happens for a starting pitcher. So, it was definitely a fun day to be out there.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Jason Varitek, Kelly Johnson
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