Clay Buchholz can still have the kind of season he wants.
Despite starting the year 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA and looking like a Cy Young Award contender, it all fell apart for Buchholz between June and early September, when he missed those months with a mysterious combination of shoulder inflammation and discomfort. The maladies basically ruined his otherwise great season.
Now, in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park, against probable AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, it is still all on the table for Buchholz to salvage his partially lost season.
Out pitch Scherzer and show why he could have been a strong contender for the top pitching award and all the black clouds hovering over his season suddenly dissipate in an instant.
Buchholz has made two starts in these playoffs and the results have been mixed.
In Game 3 of the ALDS vs Tampa Bay he seemed to be pitching well before he hung a change up to Evan Longoria that was blasted for a three-run homer; the deciding factor in the only game the Rays won in the series. His overall line was serviceable: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB and 5K but not enough to get it done based on how he pitched before the injuries hit.
Then in Game 2 of this ALCS Buchholz was beat up by a Detroit lineup that jumped out to a 5-0 lead including home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila. The Sox were only saved by a furious late inning rally topped off by the David Ortiz grand slam.
Buchholz’ line was a lot uglier after that beating: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB and 6K.
If he can take anything out of that last start it’s the fact his strikeouts were still up and he had no walks.
The bottom line is Buchholz carried the Sox staff the first two months. As a result, expectations for him became very high. The time missed due to injuries caused many fans to get down on him and Buchholz himself was certainly frustrated by not being able to help his team.
But that can all change in Game 6. If April-May Buchholz shows up to Fenway and pitches lights out the Sox will have a great chance to close out the Tigers and avoid Justin Verlander in a Game 7.
When Buchholz thinks about how he can lift his team and make up for lost time this season, closing out the ALCS with a good performance and win is definitely at the top of his list of options.