The more runs that the Boston Red Sox produce, the better the chances are for estranged pitcher Clay Buchholz may get more playing time than first thought.
Boston’s bats were on fire last night, lighting up Minnesota Twins pitchers effortlessly. One would argue that every top team has to do that against the American League’s worst team; you take care of business so that the lead is stretched in the division. However, Minnesota’s Tyler Duffy likely wasn’t expecting Red Sox leadoff hitter Mookie Betts to jump all over the first pitch of the game and drill it over the Green Monster in left field. Boston took a commanding 3-0 lead from the bottom of the first inning and never looked back.
Yet, who knew that Buchholz was going to be the one checking behind them to make sure the Twins never got back in their rearview mirror?
According to RosterResource.com, the Red Sox depth chart dictates that Brad Ziegler is the new closer, while Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel are out for lengthy periods of time with injuries. Nonetheless, if Boston keeps putting games out of range for their oppositions to make any form of comeback, the team may not be in need of a replacement closer.
Meanwhile, Brian MacPherson reported on Twitter how Red Sox manager John Farrell felt about Buchholz’s issues, before last night’s game:
It didn’t sound like we would see Mr. Buchholz for a very long time, based on those words. And, Farrell usually would be right if this was any other team than the highest scoring team in the majors.
Foreshadowing the mood that the Red Sox were in, social media erupted when David Ortiz, the face of the franchise, did this during batting practice:
The absolute power that the man has to have in his 40-year-old body to do such a thing, even without the game being on the line, is amazing and hinted at what was to come.
The top four Red Sox in the lineup went 14-for-19 with nine RBIs for a 13-2 victory. Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Ortiz are now all batting above .300 and do not look like they’ll be cooling off any time soon. The team was 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position, only leaving four men on base. Even if starting pitcher Steven Wright had a bad outing, which he didn’t, the game would have still been pretty relaxing on the mound for him. Instead, he pitched eight innings, striking out nine Twins with his dancing knuckleball, allowing two runs for which only one was earned on four hits and a walk.
However, even with an 11-run lead, a starting pitcher can use some relief. That’s when Buchholz appeared in the bullpen to warm up:
Designated as a long reliever, what must Buchholz have been thinking as he stepped onto the mound in the ninth inning last night? Buchholz hadn’t pitched since July 2nd, and that wasn’t even in a relief role. It was June the last time Buchholz came out of the pen.
A double and three flyouts later, the mopping up was done. Buchholz held the score for Wright to earn the victory. Wright was originally considered the fifth starter while Buchholz, the ace during the 2013 World Series campaign, was in the two-spot behind free agent David Price. Now, while Price has a 9-7 record, Wright is tied with Rick Porcello for the most wins on the team with 12 and he has the lowest starter ERA (2.67). Buchholz, at 2-8 and a 6.31 ERA, isn’t even in the starting rotation anymore, designated to clean up other starters’ games from now on.
What does all of this mean? Well, the trade deadline is quickly approaching and, if Boston keeps scoring runs like they have lately, then Buchholz will have similar opportunities to show his skill to other scouts, whether he wants to or not.
The Red Sox have scored 529 runs this season, with the next closest in the majors being the St. Louis Cardinals with 492 runs. The next highest from the American League is the Toronto Blue Jays with 478 runs. In the last seven days, the Red Sox have been red-hot, hitting 15 home runs and 38 RBIs, the most of any team in the majors since the All-Star Break.
With all of those runs in mind, how many games will be that close if the Red Sox keep beating on weaker teams like they have? Having Ziegler as the closer is great for tight games against better bats, but the majority of the time should be to mop up later innings with Boston ahead in the game. Cue Buchholz and the rest of the pen. It stands to reason that Buchholz would get the lion’s share of the work if Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations, is trying to trade him for assets that the team needs for a deep playoff run. It will allow the Red Sox to play Buchholz without fear of him breaking down, bleeding runs and allowing the opposition back into games.
Either Buchholz figures out his issues and remains with the club or he will market himself to another team without hurting a lead too much. Either way, the Red Sox only benefit from the situation. As long as their bats continue to drive in runs. If the well dries up, so will Buchholz’s playing time as well as any chance that the world sees him again this season, either in a Red Sox uniform or in another team’s colors.