He may not be Shawn Michaels, but Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is acting like the real HBK. The problem: he’s breaking hearts of Red Sox Nation.
Last night, against the Cleveland Indians, Buchholz lasted six innings and allowed only five hits. Any baseball manager would be pleased with that, at first, until it’s noted that one of those hits was a three-run blast by Jason Kipnis on the first pitch in the at-bat.
The Fenway Park faithful watched as Buchholz made quick work of the Indians in the first two innings before a single, a walk, and then the home run ripped the Red Sox two-run lead away in the third inning. A sacrifice fly by Jose Ramirez later in the inning sealed the loss for Boston’s starting pitcher, making his record 2-4, ironically the same as the game score, and bringing him to a 5.92 ERA.
Out of nine starts this season, the righty pitcher has given up five earned runs in five of those games. Only once did he blank a team, the Toronto Blue Jays back in April, when Buchholz pitched 6.2 innings and allowed only six hits; however, he earned a no-decision as the Boston bats were also silent.
The home-run ball is part of the problem, as Buchholz has allowed nine homers, averaging one long ball per game. That total is the most for the Red Sox starting pitchers, even more than Rick Porcello‘s seven mistakes that looked like beach balls for MLB sluggers.
It’s worth noting that it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Buchholz enthusiasts, last night. He was able to recover after the bad inning to keep the Indians away from the scoreboard. That’s what keeps the team’s faith in him.
Buchholz may have the starting rotation’s worst opposing batting average (.263), but it’s not from missing the strikezone. According to BrooksBaseball.net, the veteran peppers the strikezone but almost anywhere that he throws his pitches is lit up by the bats. The only spot that Buchholz is hitting the best is low and away from a right-handed batter, which the hitters have earned a mere .057 average. Anything in the strikezone is getting driven into the field, with averages ranging from .228 to .359.
That’s where the ‘Heart-Break Kid’ status kicks in. Buchholz is throwing his pitches slightly harder than last month, but the movement isn’t fooling the batters. Buchholz is getting pounded in the strikezone, with five out of the nine parts of the zone being bashed for a .500 slugging percentage or higher, with the lower-middle portion getting hit 13 times for an .813 SLG and the right side of the plate getting hit 26 times for a .772 SLG.
Buchholz continuously brings fans on a roller coaster. He can get through innings quickly and look like the dominant force that he was in 2013, when he posted a 12-1 record and a 1.74 ERA. Then, as the doubters wait for the other shoe to drop, Buchholz has then fulfilled their pessimistic premonitions by allowing opposing lineups to hit .250 with runners in scoring position, giving up Boston’s leads and taxing the hearts of Red Sox Nation.
Buchholz provided the superkick to pound the opposition into submission in 2013 to become a World Series champion. Now, that superkick, much like in professional wrestling, feels more like a screwjob to the jawbones of Boston fans everywhere, any time he takes the mound. Nobody knows when it’s coming, but everyone, including opposing sluggers, seems to know that it’s just a matter of time until it does.