- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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When Clay Buchholz puts as many men on base as he did -- 11 hits and a walk in six innings --- the game resembles a Senate filibuster and is about as entertaining. But as exasperating as it might be to watch, Buchholz deserves credit for limiting the Orioles to two runs, ending two innings with the bases loaded, and holding the O's to one wind-blown extra-base hit, a double sliced into the left-field corner by Jimmy Paredes.
It was an acceptable bounceback from the debacle in New York last Sunday, when he gave up 10 runs (9 earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
His cutter was much improved ("the best I've had this season”), he bounced some curveballs into the dirt for swinging strikes, and his changeup was an effective weapon. Of the 18 swings and misses he got Saturday, 16 came on his cutter, change and curve. He threw the cutter 24 times Saturday, according to Brooksbaseball.net, compared to six against the Yankees and 10 against the Phillies.
Manager John Farrell said he thought Buchholz pitched with "more conviction” Saturday, and the pitcher did not disagree.
"After the last outing, the last thing I wanted ‘em to do is let them hit the ball around," he said. "I definitely didn't feel like I gave up 11 hits. I won a couple of battles, but balls just ended up falling in. But it didn't affect me like it did in New York."
Delusional? No, the man had a point. Baltimore's 11 hits were 10 singles and Paredes's double that drifted away from Hanley Ramirez into the left-field corner.
He struck out Alejandro de Aza and Steve Pearce with the bases loaded in the fourth, and escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth when Manny Machado chased a ball out of the zone and hit into a first-to-home-to-first double play snappily turned by Mike Napoli and Ryan Hanigan.
This was Buchholz's first start at Fenway; his next start is scheduled Thursday in Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. There are plenty of seats available on the Buchholz bandwagon, but at least they weren't fleeing like rats from a ship like they were in the Bronx last Sunday.
Replay Camera 1, Hanley Ramirez 0. Now, it's possible that an entire pressbox of observers was deceived by their lying eyes when they judged that Paredes's fly ball to the Monster clanked off the base of Ramirez's glove in the fifth and was (generously) ruled a single. Ramirez experienced it differently. He also saw it differently.
The left-fielder-in-training said the ball hit the Wall first, then his glove, as he bunny-hopped for the ball.
"I went back inside and I saw the replay," he said. "It looked like it hit my glove, but it hit the wall first and then my glove."
Ramirez did offer some helpful advice to his interrogators, though.
"Make sure you ask the replay person about it," he said.
Upon further review, no one else, non-uniformed division, saw what Ramirez saw. The ball appears to strike Ramirez's glove and appeared eminently catchable. The Red Sox have never deceived themselves about Ramirez's transition to left. They anticipated some rough patches, and just hope that Ramirez doesn't grow frustrated and hostile when he looks bad and is asked about it. They are willing to bet that like his namesake, Manny Ramirez, Hanley will outhit his mistakes, a reasonably safe proposition. That was not the case, however, on Saturday, when he failed to get the ball out of the infield in four at-bats, tapping back to reliever Darren O'Day in the eighth to start a 1-4-3 double play after David Ortiz's leadoff walk when it was still a one-run game.
Finally, something that will likely startle veteran Sox watchers. Boston's worst hitter last season with runners in scoring position and two out was not a struggling kid like Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, or Jackie Bradley Jr. It wasn't a slumping veteran like Stephen Drew or A.J. Pierzynski. It wasn't even Grady Sizemore, returning to the game after a lengthy absence. No, it was Dustin Pedroia, who batted just .111 (6 for 54) with RISP and two outs last season.
Pedroia has fared much better than that in previous seasons -- he hit .300 or better in those situations in each season from 2009 to 2011 -- and it was thought that with a return to health, his ability to deliver in the clutch might also return. That hasn't been the case so far this season, a small sample size to be sure, but a testament in part to how pitchers bear down on Pedroia rather than risk having to face David Ortiz. Pedroia is hitless in nine at-bats with RISP and two outs this season, including three missed opportunities Saturday. He grounded out to third with runners on first and third, Manny Machado making a nice play on his slow roller. He went down swinging against Orioles starter Chris Tillman with runners on the corners in the fifth. And after a single and stolen base by Brock Holt in the seventh, Pedroia went down swinging again, whiffing on a wicked splitter by Orioles reliever Brad Brach. "More credit to them," the Sox second baseman said. "I didn't get one good pitch to hit all day. They were on the corners all night and when they do that it makes it tough."
Clay Buchholz wobbles, Hanley Ramirez blinks, Dustin Pedroia comes up empty