Heading into 2013, all baseball on-lookers knew what a big season it was for Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz.
In his sixth MLB season, the 28-year-old hurler was coming off the most disappointing season of his career. Although he’s only finished with more than 10 wins twice, he’s shown the ability to pitch like an ace of a staff, just not on a consistent basis.
After his first two outings of this year, it is very clear that Buchholz is determined to prove he has what it takes to be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher on the Red Sox staff each time he takes to the mound.
Buchholz threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in a 3-1 Red Sox win over the Orioles in the home opener Monday afternoon.
“It’s always good to win,” Buchholz said. “It was a fun game to pitch in, especially when you come out on top at the end.”
The right-hander seemed to get stronger as the game went along, not surrendering a hit past the third inning. His pitch count was rising early in the game as he had thrown 61 pitches after the fourth inning, partly due to the number of walks he allowed (four), but he settled down nicely, allowing just one base runner between the fifth and sixth innings. Buchholz had thrown 90 pitches after the sixth, but there was no doubt he would go out for the seventh.
“That was Clay’s ballgame,” manager John Farrell said. “He earned the right to get through it.”
He was equally as impressive in his first start last Wednesday in New York, going seven strong innings, allowing just one run on six hits, also earning the win.
With Buchholz’ dominance, coupled with a fine start from Jon Lester, the Red Sox truly have a golden 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation, something they did not have last year and something the rest of the team can feed off of.
“They are extremely important to us, but I don’t want to take away from anyone else that walks on the mound to start ballgames,” Farrell said. “As far as our rotation goes, to have two guys at the front end of it, starting the season as they are, it’s set a very good tone. We know we’re only seven games into this, but it’s great to see them go out and really take control of the tempo of the game.”
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter: @Hannable84