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Clay Buchholz continues ‘very similar’ run of 2013 in Red Sox’ win over Astros 07.04.15 at 6:05 pm ET
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“He’s been slicing and dicing so we’ll sit back, press play, and watch him go forever.” — Justin Masterson on Clay Buchholz following the Red Sox‘ 12-8 extra-inning loss to the Astros Friday night.

Friday night Justin Masterson said Clay Buchholz would go forever in Saturday’s start, and while he likely didn’t mean he literally would go forever, Buchholz went as long as possible as the right-hander tossed a one-run, complete game to lead the Red Sox to a 6-1 win over the Astros on the Fourth of July at Fenway Park.

Buchholz went all nine innings, allowing one run, which came in the ninth, on six hits while not issuing a walk and striking out eight. He threw 110 pitches, 80 for strikes.

“It’s definitely good especially after a game like last night,” Buchholz said. “Taxed bullpen. Yeah, so first thing in my coming out here today was to get as deep in the game as I could. Complete games don’t always happen. There’s a lot of things that have to go right for things like that to happen, but I could throw just about any pitch I wanted to today. It doesn’t happen like that very often but I was able to locate curveballs and throw changeups in the dirt whenever I needed some swings and misses and threw some cutters off of some heaters.”

Saturday’s performance was just a continuation of the run he’s been on of late. Over his last 10 starts dating back to May 15, he has an ERA of 1.99 and is 5-2. Most recently, he’s gone seven-plus innings and allowed one earned run or less over his last four starts, going a perfect 4-0 with an 0.87 ERA in that span.

While it may not be exactly like his pre-injury stretch of 2013 where he went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA over his first 12 starts of the year, it’s pretty close.

“Very similar,” Farrell said. “Anytime you’re talking about a guy who is going to go seven or eight innings pretty much each time out with low runs allowed, it’s a very similar run.”

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz’s complete game leads Red Sox over Astros on Fourth of July at 4:37 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz led the Red Sox over the Astros Saturday at Fenway Park. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz led the Red Sox over the Astros Saturday at Fenway Park. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

If there was any question as to who the Red Sox‘ stopper is, Clay Buchholz once again proved he’s that guy.

Taking to the mound following a Red Sox loss the game prior for the seventh time in his last nine starts, Buchholz once again delivered, leading the Red Sox to a 6-1 win over the Astros on the Fourth of July at Fenway Park.

Of those seven games, the Red Sox have now won four of them. Overall, Buchholz was won his last four starts and the Red Sox have won six of his last seven.

Saturday, the right-hander tossed a complete game and was completely in control of the Astros hitters, allowing just one run, which came in the ninth. He allowed just six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight while throwing 110 pitches, 80 for strikes.

It was the first complete game for a Red Sox pitcher this season.

“He’s been on a run the last 10 starts where he’s been in control,” manager John Farrell said. “That was the case again today for the full nine inning of work. A number of pitches with men on base that he was able to execute. He’s in such a good place mentally where he’s completing his delivery, commanding four pitches for strikes. In control today.”

The Red Sox gave Buchholz all the offense he would need in the first two innings. Xander Bogaerts drove home Mookie Betts with a sharp, two-strike single to right field in the first inning and then Betts’ sacrifice fly to left field in the second inning brought home Shane Victorino, who singled in his first major league at-bat since May 23.

They would tack on an unearned run in the fifth inning when Brock Holt reached on an error by catcher Hank Conger and then scored on a double by Bogaerts. The Red Sox chased Houston starter Collin McHugh from the game in the sixth when Betts doubled home Sandy Leon, who singled earlier in the inning.

Finally, the Red Sox capped the scoring in the eighth, adding two more runs when Betts laced a double to dead center field scoring Victorino and the Alejandro De Aza, pinch-hitting for Hanley Ramirez, beat out an infield single with the bases loaded on a head first dive into first base.

“The one thing that has been extremely encouraging is the way our young players have continued to grow. The way they’ve continued to perform and produce,” Farrell said. “Mookie and Xander, particularly with men in scoring position, they are taking what the opposing pitcher has given them, put good swings on balls, using the whole field. So when you look at the top three guys and the bottom two today — Vic returning with a couple of base hits and two runs scored, we’re getting production in areas other than the middle of the order.”

With the win, the Red Sox improved to 28-12 when scoring first.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Astros matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Collin McHugh at 11:31 am ET
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After dropping the first game of a three-game set to the Astros, the Red Sox will send right-hander Clay Buchholz to the mound to face Collin McHugh Saturday afternoon.

Buchholz enters Saturday’s game with a record of 6-6 and sporting a 3.48 ERA. He has struck out 96 in 16 starts on the season, and has a WHIP of 1.24.

In his last start, Buchholz dominated the high-octane Blue Jays offense to the tune of eight innings and one run. He scattered five hits in a 3-1 Red Sox victory.

“He’s been on a really strong run through the entire month, and tonight tops off the month that he’s had,”€ said manager John Farrell of Buchholz. “€œEight very strong innings for us. On a night we needed a starter to go deep, he provided it. But he was outstanding. He threw four pitches for strikes. He threw some quality two-seamers in to their big right-handers to keep them honest. It was a constant mix, staying out of the middle of the plate. He was outstanding tonight.”

Buchholz has been far and away the best starter in the Red Sox rotation this season and has in many ways been better than his ERA indicates. In his past nine starts, the 30-year-old has accrued a 2.13 ERA and opposing hitters have hit just .235 against him. He has earned a 1.03 WHIP during that span, dating back to May 15.

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Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox ‘probably not thrilled [Eduardo Rodriguez’s pitching tells] are out there’ 07.01.15 at 1:54 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the attention drawn to Eduardo Rodriguez tipping pitches and the flexibility of Clay Buchholz‘s contract among other things. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

Going into Tuesday’s game the talk centered around Eduardo Rodriguez and how he tipped his pitches to opposing batters as to what type of pitch he was going to throw. The Orioles managed to figure it out when they were able to chase him after he allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings last Thursday, but he bounced back Tuesday night, tossing six innings, giving up just one earned run on four hits.

During its broadcast of Tuesday’s game, NESN showed exactly what Rodriguez had been doing. He would tilt his head downward when throwing an off-speed pitch, while his head would stay up when he was about to throw a fastball.

Olney said the segment detailing the issue was useful for him as a member of the media, but that it probably wasn’t what people in the Red Sox organization wanted on air during their broadcast.

“As a reporter, of course, I love it,” he said. “Give me as much information as possible. But if you’re actually working for the team, I wouldn’t want it out there.”

“If we broke that down on Baseball Tonight, I’d be excited about it,” Olney added. “If I worked at Major League Baseball Network, you’d be excited about breaking that down, but if you’re within the Red Sox community, you’re probably not thrilled that that’s out there.”

Olney brought up the impression he’s received from other front offices is that the Red Sox will probably look to shed some money during the offseason, most likely via Rusney Castillo and his seven-year, $72.5 million contract.

“Let’s face it, Hanley Ramirez doesn’t have a lot of trade value right now,” he said. “You’d have to eat a lot of money to move Pablo Sandoval given what’s going on there, and there’s not a lot of other ways to do it, which is why people of other teams come back to Castillo. But I still think that it’s early, and even though you look at the standings and it doesn’t look good for the Red Sox, it’s not like there’s some horse running away with the American League, and it doesn’t hurt the Red Sox to wait three weeks.

“If they’re back within four, five games, maybe their perspective changes. If the hole gets deeper then yeah, they could look to do some things, but I think it’s going to be really difficult for them to move some of those pieces that have been written about without eating a lot of money and teams don’t usually do that this early in their contracts.”

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Curt Schilling on D&C: Eduardo Rodriguez is future Game 1 playoff starter at 10:10 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox. To listen to the audio of the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

As the Red Sox, particularly the team’s starting pitchers, have struggled this season, many fans have looked to the minor leagues and eyed the various pitching prospects the organization owns, including Brian Johnson and Henry Owens.

Schilling has been impressed with the young arms in the team’s farm system.

“I look at this organization from a pitching perspective like you can kind of look at the Cubs from a player perspective,” Schilling said. “I think they’re stacked. A lot of power arms. … I love the arms, I really do think that they’ve got a ton of development happening and this is just an unfortunate year.”

Rodriguez has made the leap from a prospect to a major league starter and Schilling has been very impressed with what he’s seen.

“Eddie, clearly, is ready,” he said. “He had a bad outing, he was tipping his pitches, he made adjustments, he fixed it. This is your one. When you get back to the postseason, this is the guy you’re going to hand the ball to game one.”

Rodriguez did struggle with tipping his pitches in a June 25 game against Baltimore, but the team was able to diagnose the problem and fix it in advance of his Tuesday start in Toronto.

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How Red Sox teamed up to help Eduardo Rodriguez not tip his pitches 06.30.15 at 11:50 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez felt like he made strides Tuesday night in not tipping his pitches. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez felt like he made strides Tuesday night in not tipping his pitches. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

TORONTO — The education of Eduardo Rodriguez is in full force.

Considering the results of his outing against the Blue Jays Tuesday night at Rogers Centre — in which the rookie pitcher allowed just one run over four hits over six innings in the Red Sox 4-3 win — some might have figured Rodriguez has figured out what plagued him in his previous start against the Orioles.

Not exactly.

The issue that plagued Rodriguez against the Orioles — tipping his pitches with runners on base — didn’t seem totally fixed. While he did correct the glove position when in the stretch, which was different in his delivery depending on if he was pitching from the wind-up or the stretch, his head-tilt seemed to still offer a tell.

In the middle innings, it was somewhat evident when Rodriguez was throwing anything other than a fastball due to the downward positioning of his head.

It was better, but not perfect … A work in progress.

“Working on all those four days before today. I tried to work on not tipping pitches to the hitters,” Rodriguez said. “Working in my bullpen, every time I threw the ball, I worked at that, so that’s what I did better today.”

“The last time he pitched we all got on him because he was tipping his pitches really bad,” said Red Sox DH David Ortiz on the Red Sox Radio Network following the Sox’ win. “We know he has that great stuff, but when you start tipping pitches hitters start eliminating pitches so it’s easier to hit. So in his case [Clay] Buchholz, myself, Panda [Sandoval], everybody was pretty much trying to him some ideas for his next outing. He executed really well, worked hard on it and he wasn’t tipping at all and that’s why he pitched the way he did tonight. … He was a different guy out there with the same stuff, which is what makes it tough to pitch off him.”

As Ortiz suggested, the process of identifying the issue started with two of Rodriguez’ rotation-mates, and evolved into a team-wide support system.

“It was one of those things where I think everybody at some point and time has had to deal with tipping, or think that you’re tipping and you’re getting hit around and wondering why,” explained Buchholz.

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz makes case for Red Sox not to trade him in win over Blue Jays 06.29.15 at 9:37 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz dominated the Blue Jays on Monday. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz dominated the Blue Jays on Monday. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Trade Clay Buchholz? Not the way he’s pitching right now.

Clay Buchholz earned the Opening Day start for the Red Sox, and then endured some of the same ups and downs to afflict the rest of the rotation. Unlike starters such as Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly (and Wade Miley and Justin Masterson, for that matter), Buchholz has clearly righted the ship.

Needing a big outing from their best starter to open an all-important four-game series in Toronto, the Red Sox got one on Monday night. Buchholz dominated one of baseball’s best offenses en route to a 3-1 victory.

“He’s been on a really strong run through the entire month, and tonight tops off the month that he’s had,” said manager John Farrell. “Eight very strong innings for us. On a night we needed a starter to go deep, he provided it. But he was outstanding. He threw four pitches for strikes. He threw some quality two-seamers in to their big right-handers to keep them honest. It was a constant mix, staying out of the middle of the plate. He was outstanding tonight.”

This one was all Buchholz, who lowered his team-leading ERA to 3.48 while improving to 6-6. He scattered five hits over eight innings, efficiently dispatching the Jays on just 96 pitches to give the Red Sox their seventh victory in 11 games.

The timing couldn’t have been better from a personal standpoint as well. Buchholz’s name is share to come up in trade rumors next month, one year after Jon Lester and John Lackey got shipped out at the trade deadline.

“I never even thought of that,” Buchholz said. “I don’€™t know. It is what it is. I understand the business side of it. But like I said before, this is the only place I’€™ve ever been, but I’€™d like to be here as long as I can. That’€™s my job. If they’€™ve got to make decisions, I’€™ve got to make it tough on them. First start in the big leagues to now.”

Buchholz struck out Jose Reyes and Josh Donaldson leading off the game to set the tone, and then got some help from his defense in the second when left fielder Alejandro De Aza chased down a Kevin Pillar double and fired to relay man Xander Bogaerts, who threw behind Russell Martin at third, which led to third baseman Pablo Sandoval winning the footrace and chasing down Martin from behind to apply the inning-ending tag.

“It was a huge pickoff for us,” Buchholz said. “I pitched against him for the last six or seven years on different teams and know what kind of player he is. He’€™s got pop, he can hit homers if you just lay one in there. He can run, plays the outfield as good as anybody, and is a threat on the bags, just all around player.”

The Red Sox gave Buchholz all the offense he would need in the top of the third when Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt sandwiched walks around a Mookie Betts single. The Red Sox have consistently found ways not to score in such situations, but this time Bogaerts delivered, plating two runs with a double.

It’s a good thing he did, too, because the next three hitters popped up, but Buchholz had all the support he’d need.

The Red Sox added an insurance run in the fifth when Betts led off with a triple and scored on a Holt single.

The Blue Jays rarely threatened from there, with Sandoval starting a key 5-4-3 double play to end the seventh and keep Buchholz’s pitch count manageable enough to pitch the eighth.

Closer Koji Uehara then closed things out in the ninth for his third save of the road trip, making a winner of a pitcher the Red Sox need more than ever.

“[Buchholz] had a couple of bumps early in the year, but he’s been very consistent — a guy that you know is going to give you six, seven or possibly more on a night that he starts,” Farrell said. “He’s doing that for us. It allows you to be a little bit more aggressive with a bullpen the day before he starts. That’s comforting when you’ve got that kind of guy pitching as an upper end of a rotation guy.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: This one’s not even a question. Clay Buchholz continued an outstanding run with one of his best outings of the season, silencing the Jays over eight five-hit innings.

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Monday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. R.A. Dickey at 8:18 am ET
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In the first game of their series at Rogers Centre, the Red Sox send Clay Buchholz to the mound to face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Buccholz’s last start came Wednesday night when the Orioles were at Fenway Park. He tossed seven innings and gave up just one earned run on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. The outing was his third straight lasting six or more innings and his second consecutive one allowing fewer than two earned runs.

“[I] was able to throw some changeups in some big spots and was able to use the cutter on both sides of the plate,” Buchholz said Wednesday. “They hit some balls pretty hard right at some guys and defense made the plays on them, so that always helps, too.”

Over his last nine starts, Buchholz has a 2.48 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, holding opponents to a .246/.291/.336 slash line. Of those nine outings, the righty has only surrendered more than three earned runs twice, when he conceded four in consecutive starts on June 7 and June 13. Buchholz’s recent success has helped improve his season record to 5-6 and his ERA to 3.68.

The Blue Jays are one team that Buchholz is very familiar with, especially on the road in Toronto. With 26 career starts against the Jays, and 27 total appearances, Buchholz has been on the hill at the Rogers Centre 14 times. Overall, he has a 3.51 ERA and a 12-9 record through 166 2/3 innings vs. the Blue Jays, and that improves to a 2.30 ERA with a 9-3 mark over 94 innings in Toronto. Opposing Jays batters slash .233/.309/.320 against Buchholz, and he manages an even more impressive .208/.286/.270 when away from home. Out of teams that he’s made at least six starts against, Buchholz’s 1.138 WHIP at Toronto’s field is his second best. Only his 0.952 mark at Tropicana Field is better.

In three starts vs. the Jays this season, Buchholz is 1-1 with a 6.60 ERA, though two of those outings were at home. In his one start at the Rogers Centre, he pitched 6 1/3 innings while giving up just three earned runs with as many walks and strikeouts. At Fenway, he pitched 2 2/3 innings on April 28 and 4 2/3 innings on June 13 against Toronto, allowing four earned runs in each abbreviated start.

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Despite Eduardo Rodriguez’s rough outing, Clay Buchholz believes in rookie 06.25.15 at 6:19 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Thursday's loss to the Orioles. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Thursday’s loss to the Orioles. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Being 22 years old and making just your sixth big league start, especially when you struggle, things can be tough.

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez struggled for the second time in a matter of weeks, completely unraveling in the fourth inning in Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the Orioles as he allowed six runs on seven hits in the frame, exiting the game after just 3 2/3 innings.

This comes after allowing nine earned runs over the fourth and fifth innings in the first loss of his career, June 14 against the Blue Jays. Following his three gems to open his career, he’s now lost two of his last three starts and has allowed 16 earned runs in those starts.

Fortunately for Rodriguez, confidence and support has not been lost from his teammates. Dustin Pedroia had a few encouraging words with him in the clubhouse following the game, as well as Clay Buchholz, who said they would sit down more and go over video of the lefty’s start.

“More so just to clear his mind,” Buchholz said of the conversation he had with Rodriguez at his locker. “His stuff plays. That was one of the things that was hard for me coming up. Whenever I ran into some tough times you start doubting yourself and that’s the last thing you want to do at this point. More just stay confident. His stuff is good. He’s going to be fine. If there’s anything within the delivery that is out of sorts or whatever, we’ll work on fixing it and go from there.”

“This game, it’s a faster pace than the minor leagues,” Buchholz added. “Competition from minor leagues to the big leagues — there’s a lot of good players in Triple-A, but here there’s constant study on your delivery, if there’s any sort of thing they can hint on to cancel out pitches. There’s a couple of things we’re going to sit down and look at over the next couple of days just to look and clear his mind because it’s not easy going out there, especially the first three innings throwing as well as he did and then something happen like that.”

Thursday was frustrating for Rodriguez as he retired the first 10 hitters of the game in order, but the second time through the Orioles order, they roughed him up.

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Clay Buchholz showing flashes of 2013, emerging as Red Sox’ staff ace 06.24.15 at 11:26 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz has an ERA of 2.28 over his last eight starts. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz has an ERA of 2.28 over his last eight starts. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

In a season lacking positives, there’s one player who has quietly gone under the radar as one of the biggest positives on the Red Sox roster of late and maybe a player least expected to be one.

That player is Clay Buchholz.

After his sixth start of the season Buchholz had an ERA of 6.03 and was getting mocked left-and-right for being the Red Sox‘ so-called ace. But, since then Buchholz has actually been just that — the ace of the Red Sox’ rotation.

Following his seven inning, one-run performance in the Red Sox’ 5-1 win over the Orioles Wednesday, Buchholz’s ERA is now 3.68, a full 2.35 lower than it was at the beginning of May.

Since May 14, over his last eight starts, he has an ERA of 2.28 and is unbeaten in his last five starts with the Red Sox winning four of those games.

The way he’s pitched of late has drawn some comparisons to how he was at the start of the 2013 season when he went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA before missing three months with a shoulder injury.

“I think he’s been as strong start to start in terms of run strength and overall stuff this year equal to 2013 prior to the shoulder ailment that he went through,” manager John Farrell said. “But the percentage of strikes is extremely high every night he walks to the mound. He has such an uncanny ability to manipulate the baseball and change speeds as he did tonight, but he’s in a pretty solid run for us here over a high number of starts.”

Against the Orioles Wednesday, the right-hander had control of all of his pitches. According to Brooksbaseball.net, he threw 31 fastballs, 24 changeups, 12 curveballs and 32 cutters. On those pitches he got 13 swing and misses.

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