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Closing Time: Red Sox offense silenced to spoil another strong Clay Buchholz start in loss to Twins 05.27.15 at 12:07 am ET
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Clay Buchholz pitched well, but was a tough-luck loser Tuesday night against the Twins. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz pitched well but was a tough-luck loser Tuesday night against the Twins. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Red Sox remain stuck in the mud.

While they make progress in getting out, they then seemingly fall right back in.

After winning the final two games over the weekend against the Angels, the Red Sox have lost their first two games of a seven-game road trip, falling to the Twins, 2-1, Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The game was delayed at the start by 81 minutes due to rain.

Their latest defeat came at the hands of Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who entered with a career ERA just under 4.50. Pelfrey limited the Red Sox to one run on five hits over seven innings. Between the third and seventh inning, he limited the Red Sox to only two hits.

The visitors had a chance to tie, or take the lead in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two outs for Hanley Ramirez, but the left fielder flew out to right field to end the threat. Over the first 24 games in May, the Red Sox are averaging just 2.75 runs per game.

Mike Napoli drove in the Red Sox‘ only run of the game, a single up the middle in the second inning.

“Not much to get going. A lot of early outs, put the ball on the ground, a couple of ground-ball double plays,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I’d like to think our approach can be a little bit more concerted, a little bit more concentrated. You never want to take away credit from a guy that’s throwing the ball well this year in Pelfrey. But still, I think we’re capable of more than we showed here tonight.”

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz continued his season-long trend of starting slow, but settling in. After allowing two first inning runs, and not having his best overall stuff, Buchholz went 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, while walking one and striking out four. Over his last four starts his ERA is 2.17, but the Red Sox are 1-3 in those games.

Buchholz continues to struggle in the first inning, as he allowed two runs once again. For the season he’s allowed 13 first-inning runs in 10 starts. It hasn’t just been Buchholz, the Red Sox as a team struggle in the first inning, being outscored 35-14 in the opening frame.

“Yeah, I didn’t have much tonight,” Buchholz said. “I didn’t have command of any one pitch. As the game went on, I found a couple pitches and was able to throw a couple strikes and make some big pitches in some big situations. As far as stuff goes, I feel like that’s the worst that I’ve had. To be able to go out there and have the first inning and pitch out of some jams against a team that’s swinging as well as they are right now, I feel like I did a pretty good job. It seems like we’re running into a lot of guys throwing the ball well right now.”

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Buchholz. The right-hander delivered his fourth straight quality start, but the offense couldn’t help him out, as his record dropped to 2-6. He’s thrown three straight starts of at least seven innings. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, mike napoli, Mike Pelfrey
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Twins matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Mike Pelfrey 05.26.15 at 8:28 am ET
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The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound Tuesday to face Mike Pelfrey and the Twins at Target Field for the middle game of their three-game set.

Buchholz, who holds a 2-5 record and a 4.58 ERA, comes into Tuesday’s game with a streak of three consecutive quality starts. His latest outing came against the Rangers last Thursday, when he pitched 7 1/3 strong innings, limiting the Rangers to two earned runs. Unfortunately for Buchholz, the Red Sox could not figure out Texas left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, mustering only one run and handing Buchholz the tough-luck 3-1 loss.

“I thought Clay certainly gave us a chance to win this ballgame,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “They score a second run on an attempted double play in the first to give them a 2-0 lead and then a cutter that stayed on the outside of the plate to [Mitch] Moreland is the extent of their offense. Going into the eighth inning, kept his pitch count well in check, and through the middle innings I thought he did an outstanding job to get that deep.”

Since his loss to the Rays on May 4, Buchholz has shown the stuff that made him a dark-horse Cy Young candidate back in 2013. Over his last three starts, the 30-year-old has logged 21 2/3 innings, notching 18 punchouts and limiting opposing hitters to a paltry .200/.250/.333 slash line. Buchholz finally has begun to find his swing-and-miss pitch, as 16 percent of his strikes over these three starts have come off of the whiff.

The Texas native has made eight career starts vs. the Twins, posting a 3-1 record and a 4.25 ERA. He has struggled with limiting baserunners against Minnesota, walking 19 batters in 48 2/3 innings pitched. Facing a 2015 Twins team that owns a .308 OBP, 11th in the AL, Buchholz hopes to find better success against Minnesota this time around.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Mike Pelfrey,
On heels of latest pitcher controversy, John Farrell wants MLB to approve substance for better grip 05.25.15 at 2:38 pm ET
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Brian Matusz, here being ejected from Saturday's game against the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, is appealing is eight-game suspension. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Brian Matusz, here being ejected from Saturday’s game against the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, is appealing is eight-game suspension. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — With another major league pitcher getting suspended for the use of a foreign substance — Baltimore’s Brian Matusz, who is appealing his eight-game ban Red Sox manager John Farrell suggested there should be another look at the rules of baseball.

Talking to the media prior to his team’s series opener against the Twins at Target Field on Monday, Farrell said MLB might want to look for a new substance that helps the pitcher with his grip on the baseball that is considered legal.

“I would like to see an approved substance that pitchers can use,” Farrell said. “Because when we take a manufactured baseball and rub it with dirt, it’s going to create a slippery feeling to it. The mud residue leaves a film on it that you don’t necessarily feel a good, consistent grip. Unless you go to a ball like the one used in Japan where it’s got a tacky feel to it. But I’d like to see something that’s approved that everyone can use. I think if you poll any hitter, the hitter wants to know that the ball’s got a grip. The ball’s not going to get away from [the pitcher].”

Matusz, who was ejected from Saturday’s game against the Marlins for having a substance on his right arm, is the second MLB pitcher in a week to be disciplined for using an illegal substance on the baseball. The BravesWill Smith also was suspended eight games for using what he said was a combination of rosin and sunscreen — also on his right arm.

“I think any time the game loses players for eight to 10 games, I think it makes us as an industry look within,” Farrell said. “If a number of pitchers are putting themselves at risk and the belief is a widespread number of pitchers are using it, why would we not look to improve the game? Nobody wants to see pitchers sidelined.”

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Read More: Brian Matusz, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, Will Smith
Searching for positives: Clay Buchholz lone bright spot in Red Sox’ loss to Rangers 05.21.15 at 11:25 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz threw his team-leading sixth quality start of the season despite the Red Sox' loss. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz threw his team-leading sixth quality start of the season despite the Red Sox‘ loss. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine any positive from the Red Sox‘ 3-1 loss to the Rangers in the final game of a three-game set where the Rangers took two-of-three from the Sox at Fenway, but there actually was one in starter Clay Buchholz.

The right-hander continued to ride the train that the Red Sox starters have been on of late, going at least five innings and allowing two earned runs in eight straight games, and going at least six innings in seven of those eight games.

Buchholz went 7 1/3 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, while walking two and striking out four. It was his team-leading sixth quality start and third straight.

“[I felt like] I threw the ball well,” Buchholz said. “First inning, Bogey [Bogaerts] tried to turn a double play, didn’t get a handle on the ball.  That guy is pretty quick, so lost him right there and he scored. Other than that a solo home run. If you’re going to give up home runs, a solo home run is the way to go. Surprised the ball got out. Right when he hit it I thought it was going to be off the wall for sure, but it just kept going. Strong man. But yeah, overall I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Mixed pitches. It was unfortunate.”

The Rangers scored two runs in the first — on the same play. With the bases loaded and one out, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts were looking to turn a double play, but Bogaerts couldn’t make the tranfer as he dropped the ball when he went to turn the double play (ruled an error). Two runs scored, the second being unearned and the Rangers took a quick 2-0 lead.

They scored again in the fourth when Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer, giving the the Rangers a 3-0 lead at the time.

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Closing Time: Punchless Red Sox once again stymied in loss to Rangers at 10:01 pm ET
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Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez

If you’re left-handed, grab a glove — you might be able to shut out the Red Sox.

In what easily goes down as the most mystifying facet of a mystifying season, the Red Sox once again on Thursday night illustrated how hopelessly overmatched they are against southpaws of any shape or size.

This time it was Wandy Rodriguez’s turn. The Rangers lefty began the game 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA, but the Red Sox made him look like Lefty Grove. Rodriguez limited the Sox to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five in a 3-1 victory.

The Red Sox entered the matchup batting just .199 against lefties, and that number dropped after Rodriguez finished with them. He particularly baffled them with a curveball that he used as a two-strike hammer.

The Red Sox also once again showed an inability to take advantage of what few opportunities they created.

They put runners at second and third leading off the fourth and scored just once on a David Ortiz groundout, squandering another run when Hanley Ramirez swung for the fences and instead dribbled one in front of home plate, allowing Rodriguez to erase Dustin Pedroia at the plate.

An inning later, they had a chance for runners on the corners with one out, but Xander Bogaerts was clipped in the cleat by a hit-and-run Daniel Nava single and called out for interference.

That was about it for the Red Sox, who wasted a gutty start by right-hander Clay Buchholz, who lacked fastball command for most of the night, but nonetheless navigated his way into the eighth inning while allowing just two earned runs.

Buchholz made just one real mistake, an 0-1 cutter that Mitch Moreland ripped into the left field seats for a solo homer in the fourth. Otherwise, the Rangers did very little after scratching out two runs in the first.

Two runs was about all they’d need, though, against an anemic Red Sox offense that isn’t just struggling against lefties, it’s struggling against everyone.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME:

Rangers left-hander Wandy Rodriguez toyed with the Red Sox for most of the night, limiting them to four hits and a run in 6 2/3 innings. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at weei.com/rocksolid.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Rangers matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Wandy Rodriguez at 11:58 am ET
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The Red Sox will close out a three-game series with the Rangers on Thursday, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against veteran Wandy Rodriguez.

Aside from one bad start, Buchholz has been a source of consistency for the Red Sox all season long. Since his disastrous game in New York on April 12 in which he allowed nine earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work, Buchholz has improved drastically. Despite a meager 1-3 record, he has posted four quality starts in his last six appearances.

During these last six starts, the right-hander has shown swing-and-miss capability, fanning 42 batters in 35 1/3 innings. Additionally, he has fallen victim to bad luck, with opponents’ batting average on balls in play reaching .375 over this stretch.

Though his last start showed his BABIP beginning to even out as he hurled eight innings of three-hit ball Friday against the Mariners, Buchholz still received the tough-luck no-decision as the Red Sox dropped the contest 2-1 behind shoddy run support.

“He had command, he had a lot of strikes, he had every pitch working for him tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said following Buchholz’s latest start. “He pitched ahead in the count for the most part. … He was very, very good.”

The Nederland, Texas, native heads into Thursday’s start with a 2-4 record and 4.93 ERA. He will look to boost these numbers against a team which has presented him with problems in the past. Buchholz has lost four of his six starts versus Texas in his career in large part due to the 1.40 WHIP he has compiled when facing the Rangers.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. J.A. Happ 05.15.15 at 12:33 pm ET
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Riding back-to-back wins, the Red Sox head into the second game against the Mariners having won four of their last five. Clay Buchholz is set to take the mound for the Sox while J.A. Happ is good to go for Seattle on Friday night.

Buchholz is coming off a strong start against the Blue Jays, piecing together a three-run, 6 1/3-inning effort that lowered his season ERA from 6.03 to 5.73 and improved his record to 2-4. The righty gave up seven hits and struck out three in the win as the Boston bats collected six runs of support before he left the hill. However, Buchholz’s outing didn’t begin as well as he might have liked. All three walks he issued to Toronto came in the first inning, but even so, he was able to keep the Jays off the board.

“That’s how it’s supposed to work,” Buchholz said of getting out of the first. “It doesn’t always work that way, but when it does, it just gives the team a little bit of a boost.”

With just four career starts and 26 2/3 innings against the Mariners, Buchholz has a 3.71 ERA and a 2-1 record. He most recently saw them last season when he pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs. Despite surrendering three home runs that day, he had a 0.955 WHIP and was awarded with the win as the Sox put five runs on the board.

Before that, Buchholz faced Seattle three times, once in 2008, once in 2010 and once in 2012. He has just once pitched fewer than seven innings against the Mariners (2008) and has never allowed more than four earned runs. Opposing batters have hit .259/.259/.593 when at the plate and Buchholz has given up 24 hits, seven for extra bases, in 106 plate appearances. He has 23 strikeouts and six walks opposite the Mariners as well.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. R.A. Dickey 05.10.15 at 9:24 am ET
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The Red Sox will wrap up a three-game series in Toronto with Clay Buchholz on the mound against R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays.

Buchholz has had trouble maintaining consistency after his great start on Opening Day. In his last start, the 30-year-old went 6 1/3 innings against the Rays, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. He gave up two runs in each of the first two innings before settling in and not allowing Tampa Bay to score again until the seventh. In the second inning, Buchholz gave up a two-run home run to designated hitter Joey Butler. It was the first home run of Butler’s career. The loss dropped Buchholz’ record to 1-4.

“I felt like I settled in fairly decent,” Buchholz said after the game. “There were a lot of pitches I didn’t feel like I got the benefit of the doubt on on the strike zone, but you can’t let that affect you. There’s going to be a lot of times that’s the way you feel about it. For the most part I felt like I threw the ball well, the line doesn’t show for it and the loss is not good either.”

Buchholz takes his 6.03 ERA and 1.60 WHIP to face a Blue Jays lineup that has been one of the most productive in baseball to this point. In his last outing against Toronto, which came at Fenway Park in late April, he made it through just 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four.

Through six outings, Buchholz has not been very fortunate in the run support department, as the Red Sox have been held to just one run in three of his starts.

In 13 career starts at the Rogers Centre, Buchholz is 8-3 with a 2.16 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 61 strikeouts and 33 walks.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey, Red Sox,
Kevin Millar on MFB: Clay Buchholz ‘may need to get a little tougher’ 05.05.15 at 12:19 pm ET
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Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

MLB Network’€™s Kevin Millar appeared on Middays with MFB Tuesday to talk about the Red Sox and specifically their rotation and Clay Buchholz. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Buchholz is 1-4 with a 6.03 ERA this season. Millar, who trains with Buchholz during the offseason, admitted it may be time for him to change something.

“[Buchholz] is a very intriguing situation because you see the stuff,” Millar said. “I think at the end of the day Buch needs to get back to the drawing board and maybe make an adjustment. Whatever that is, I’m not a pitching coach, I trained with him this offseason, Buch is a great kid.

“It’s frustrating for Clay Buchholz. It has to be frustrating. I think there’s also a thinking Clay Buchholz may need to get a little tougher. Might need to start throwing inside a little bit more. Might need to be brushing guys off the plate because the thing with Clay, he’s a strike thrower and he has four pitches we know — changeup, cutter, curveball and fastball. Mix and match all these pitches, maybe going back to the drawing board and let’s command one early.”

Overall, the rotation has been poor. Through 26 games they have an ERA of 5.73, the worst in the game. Millar points to the inconsistency of everyone.

“When this season started, I didn’t think this rotation had a probably because everyone was talking about how they didn’t have an ace, they don’t have an ace, and this was in March and this was before the first game and Buchholz goes out against Philadelphia, throws a good game, they win,” Millar said. “I thought they could at least compete because there’s only like five aces out there in the world. I think we throw around the word ace, like everyone is an ace because you make money.

“Well [even] an average pitcher these days are making $50-100 million. I like the Red Sox. Wade Miley, I change of scenery he’d be alright. Well, he’s been OK against the Yankees. I saw a start in New York and I saw a start at home and he’s throwing great. They have no consistency right now.”

Millar said even though it’s the first week of May, it may be time to make a move from the outside.

“You look at this rotation and you go, ‘What do you do now?’ This is time where you get creative,” he said. “Cole Hamels. Make the move, even though it’s the first month of the season. Go out there and figure it out.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Kevin Millar, wade miley,
Bad luck or not, Red Sox have lost last 5 games Clay Buchholz has taken the mound 05.04.15 at 11:47 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz's record dropped to 1-5 with a 6.03 following Monday's loss to the Rays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz‘s record dropped to 1-4 with a 6.03 following Monday’s loss to the Rays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Sometimes Clay Buchholz gets criticized for not owning up as much as he could following a poor start and saying he got a few bad breaks.

Monday night he did actually get a few tough breaks, as he suffered his fourth loss of the season, with the Rays taking the first game of a three-game set, 5-1 at Fenway. It was the team’s fourth straight loss.

With two outs in the top of the first James Loney lifted a ball down the left field line, which Hanley Ramirez ran hard after and simultaneously caught the ball and hit the padded wall jarring the ball out. The play went for a double (after a Red Sox challenge) and Ramirez immediately left the game with a left shoulder sprain.

After a delay while Ramirez was being tended too, Evan Longoria followed with a double of his own, and then David DeJesus singled to give the Rays a 2-0 lead before the Red Sox even stepped to the plate.

“€œI thought the first couple of runs, some freak plays,” manager John Farell said. “We challenged the play when Hanley crashed into the wall. They’€™ve changed the rule on an official catch. If there’€™s not immediate or simultaneous collision with the wall and they show a ball in the grass, it’€™s ruled a catch. We had it as there were four strides before he hit the wall but that was reversed, or seen otherwise.”

In the second inning Buchholz did make is only one true mistake of the night — an 80 MPH changeup that Joey Butler crushed into the Monster seats for a two-run homer giving the Rays a 4-0 lead. It was his first career home run.

“I felt good,” Buchholz said. “I felt good the first two innings. Left a changeup up, it’s unfortunate with Hanley out there. Definitely don’t want to lose him for an extended period of time. Whenever things aren’t going good, you don’t get breaks. We’re scuffling a little bit right now, but we have a lot of good players in here. Pretty confident we’ll bounce back.”

In retrospect, if the Ramirez play is ruled a catch, Buchholz gets out of the first inning without any damage and it’s a whole different game.

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