The Boston Red Sox need pitchers. On Tuesday, Clay Buchholz looked like a pitcher.

It doesn’t erase a season that can only be classified as rough, but it surely put smiles on faces in Beantown.

Buchholz mostly baffled the Tampa Bay Rays, scattering five hits and allowing just one earned run over 6.1 innings while striking out nine in a 2-1 Red Sox win.

The victory kept Boston (71-54) in a first-place tie with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. More essentially, it teased a dangerous new/old weapon as the Red Sox angle for a deep October run.

A first-round pick by Boston in 2005, Buchholz twirled a no-hitter in his second big league start in 2007. By 2010, he was an All-Star and top-10 Cy Young Award finisher.

Injuries and inconsistency diminished his stock, however. In 2014, he posted a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts. Last season, he bounced back with a 3.26 ERA and even more impressive 2.68 FIP in 113.1 innings, though he missed significant time with a flexor strain.

For most of 2016, Buchholz has been a mess. After his ERA ballooned to 6.35 on May 26, he was bumped to the bullpen. He’s made a handful of starts since, but his ERA has hovered around 6.00.

He slipped back into the starting mix Aug. 13, and on Tuesday he filled in again for injured knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Wright could be back as soon as Friday, per Rob Bradford of (via Darren Hartwell of, so the Sox will have some decisions to make. It’s possible, though, that Buchholz will get another turn after his gem against the Rays.

For the season, Red Sox starters own a pedestrian 4.29 ERA. They’re a strong postseason contender thanks to a high-octane offense that paces baseball in runs scored and OPS. To succeed into late October, however, you need reliable arms.

Sinkerballer Rick Porcello has authored a compelling comeback story with his 3.22 ERA and 17-3 record. And Wright, when healthy, has been exemplary, posting a 3.01 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .227 average.

David Price, Boston’s big free-agent addition, has won his last three decisions and appears to be trending in the right direction. Still, the left-hander and former AL Cy Young Award winner sports a 4.00 ERA and hasn’t been the stalwart rotation anchor the Red Sox hoped for.

Eduardo Rodriguez is sidelined with a tight hamstring. Trade acquisition Drew Pomeranz has yielded mixed results since arriving from the San Diego Padres and wears a 4.23 ERA in a Red Sox uniform.

There are a lot of ifs, in other words, and precious few certainties in Boston’s rotation.

But one good start doesn’t make Buchholz a savior. If he can string together a few more, though, it could tip the scales in baseball’s most wide-open division.

“That’s probably as good a fastball as he’s had in quite some time,” Boston manager John Farrell said of the 32-year-old right-hander, per Sam Blum and Bill Chastain of “He got down and underneath some left-hander’s swings. He was never really challenged with a long pitch count in a given inning. It was an outstanding job on his part.”

Again, Buchholz could be bumped to the ‘pen when Wright returns. That’ll be a tough call, however, as the Boston Herald‘s Jason Mastrodonato noted:

That, as they say, is a good problem to have.

For most of the season, the Red Sox have scrambled to find adequate starting pitchers. Now, they have a guy who’s doing exciting things, and they might not have room for him.

“This has been a strange year. I’ll be the first one to say that,” Buchholz said Monday, per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “But here we are, and I’m still pitching.”

A few months ago, Buchholz was all but buried. Now, he looks like a pitcher.

Boston, no doubt, will take it.


All statistics accurate as of Aug. 23 and courtesy of and unless otherwise noted.

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