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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz implodes in fifth inning as Red Sox drop third straight to Angels

08.20.14 at 10:55 pm ET
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In one inning, Clay Buchholz‘s night went from stellar to forgettable.

The right-hander was handed a 3-0 lead by the Red Sox‘ offense and took a 3-1 advantage into the fifth inning, but imploded for five runs in the frame as the Sox fell 8-3 to the Angels Wednesday night.

Buchholz looked nearly unhittable early on, allowing just one hit and striking out three through the first three innings. He gave up a run on an RBI single by Howie Kendrick in the fourth, but was seemingly still in command thanks to some early run support.

It all unraveled in the fifth.

Buchholz gave up five runs in the inning on four hits and two walks as the Angels quickly took over the game in a one-inning assault. Buchholz loaded the bases by allowing the first three hitters to reach on two singles and a walk, then walked Kole Calhoun to score the Halos’ first run of the inning. Mike Trout followed with a fielder’s choice to score the tying run and Albert Pujols ripped a single to right to put the Angels ahead.

Josh Hamilton scored Trout on a sacrifice fly and Kendrick singled in Pujols for another.

“Combination of walks and base hits,” manager John Farrell said of the fifth inning. “Through the first four innings I thought [Buchholz] was sharp, he had good late action to his stuff. In the fifth, when he got ahead of a couple of hitters, didn’t have the same finishing pitch he had shown in the previous four and they were able to put some people on. … They found some holes and bunched some hits and walks for the five runs.”

Said Buchholz: “I just missed location with a couple of pitches. They were able to put a big inning together. It’s been a long time since I walked a run in so that didn’t help. A couple balls they hit found some holes and they scored five.”

The Angels went through the entire order in the frame. It was Buchholz’s worst inning since giving up nine in the sixth inning of a disastrous outing against the Blue Jays July 28.

Buchholz finished the game with six runs on seven hits over six innings for his eighth loss of the season. He walked two, struck out five and threw 64 of his 97 pitches for strikes.

It was his worst outing since giving up seven over five innings against the Yankees Aug. 3. But Wednesday’s outcome was surprising given how effectively Buchholz pitched in his prior two starts and the way he was rolling through the first three innings Wednesday.

“I thought Clay threw the ball pretty well,” catcher David Ross said. “I think out of the stretch he got a little rushed and couldn’t find the strike zone and then they got some hits. Other than that one inning, I think he threw the ball pretty well. I think he was just not quite as sharp out of the stretch tonight.”

The loss was the Red Sox‘ fourth straight, dropping them to 56-70 for the season and 2-5 through the first seven games of the 11-game homestand.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— As poorly as Buchholz pitched in the fifth inning, he didn’t get much help from his defense either. Daniel Nava failed to chase down Trout’s shallow fly ball with the bases loaded and no outs. Instead of an easy out and no advancement from any of the runners, the ball landed right in front of Nava and a run scored.

Kendrick’s RBI single with two outs also could’ve been prevented had Dustin Pedroia gotten a glove down on the hard grounder, which forced him to move to his left off the bat. The ball instead went just by him for a hit.

— Angels starter Garrett Richards was knocked out of the game with two outs in the second inning after suffering a gruesome left patellar injury that forced him to be carted off the field. The Halos had to rely on their bullpen for the final 7 1/3 innings of Wednesday’s game, and the Sox failed to take advantage, collecting just one run on six hits off six different Angels relievers.

The Sox are 2-for-39 over their last four games with runners in scoring position and have left 41 men on base in that span.

— While Xander Bogaerts struggles in the field of late have been well documented, his recent slump at the plate is worth noting as well. The shortstop was hitless in his last 21 at-bats with eight strikeouts before reaching on an infield single in the eighth. Bogaerts is hitting .113 with 18 strikeouts since Aug. 1.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— David Ortiz continued to put his mark on the Red Sox’ record book with his 30th home run of the season. Ortiz drove the first pitch he saw from Cory Rasmus in the third into the Angels’ bullpen to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead at the time. It’s the eighth 30-home run season of Ortiz’s career, tying him with Ted Williams for the most in Red Sox history. Ortiz went 4-for-4 with three singles and is 14-for-26 (.538) with five multi-hit games through the first seven games of the Sox’ 11-game homestand.

Ortiz was pinch-hit for by Alex Hassan in the ninth with what Farrell called “general soreness where we didn’t want to take any chances with him.

“He’s so good. He’s so important to our offense,” Farrell continued. “Another 30-home run season. We have him here right now with a lot of season to go and we want to be careful with him.”

— The Sox gave Buchholz some runs to work with early in the game, scoring once in each of the first two innings to take an early 2-0 advantage. Pedroia and Ortiz both hit one-out singles and Yoenis Cespedes scored Pedroia on a sacrifice fly to right to get a run in the first.

Ross drove in the game’s second run with an RBI single that scored Kelly Johnson in the second inning. Ross went 1-for-4 in his first game back from a plantar fascia tear that kept him out since Aug. 2.

“It was nice to be back,” Ross said. “It was really nice to be back to help get a game plan together to compete. It’s fun competing.”

— Mookie Betts had one of his better games in center field for the Sox Wednesday night, showing his ability to cover significant ground throughout the game as well as a strong arm. His most notable moment came in the seventh when he showed good range by chasing down and catching a deep fly ball in right field with Nava playing shallow to rob Kendrick of extra bases. Betts also made a strong throw home that nearly gunned down Trout at the plate on a sacrifice fly to center by Hamilton in the fifth.

Betts’ single in the sixth inning extended his major league hit streak to five games dating back to Aug. 1.

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