Not that he needs any help these days, but now we know why Clay Buchholz thrives in Toronto.
Buchholz started May where he left off in April as one of the most dominant pitchers in the Major Leagues to date. The Red Sox right-hander shut out the Blue Jays on two hits in seven innings Wednesday in a 10-1 win, as counterpart Mark Buehrle surrendered three home runs for the second straight game.
Buchholz (6-0) won all five decisions in April with a collective 1.19 ERA, the lowest by a Red Sox starter since Roger Clemens (0.66) in 1991. He’s held opponents to two runs or fewer in all six starts, while lasting at least seven innings each time out.
At the Rogers Centre, he’s now 7-2 in nine career starts with a 1.49 ERA, the lowest of any pitcher with a minimum 55 innings pitched since the stadium opened in 1989.
On Wednesday, he established his fastball and was able to throw his other pitches, notably the curve, for strikes on both sides of the plate.
“I love the mound,” Buchholz said. “It’s put together really well. It’s my favourite mound to throw off of.”
After the Blue Jays celebrated a 9-7 win in the series opener, a touch of controversy resulted from the second hit of the night off Buchholz. With Toronto trailing 8-0 in the seventh inning and a runner on first with one out, Melky Cabrera tried to stretch a hit off the right-field wall into a double, and was easily thrown out at second base by outfielder Daniel Nava.
Asked how he felt about the play, manager John Gibbons said: “You probably don’t need me to describe that. That’s my answer.” Gibbons pulled Cabrera for pinch hitter Mark DeRosa in the ninth inning, likely a statement in itself.
Cabrera, coming off a 50-game drug suspension while playing for the San Francisco, has three extra-base hits and no home runs in 111 at-bats. Moved to fifth in the batting order from second last week, he is batting .248.
In contrast, Mike Napoli leads the big leagues with 21 extra-base hits. Coming off a four-strikeout game on Tuesday, he reached the second and third decks in centre field with solo and three-run homers, and added a double.
Buehrle, a left-hander, gave up three home runs in his previous start at Yankee Stadium, for a 5-3 defeat. Wednesday, left-hand hitting Stephen Drew, with a .154 batting average, hit his first home run for Boston in the second inning for a 2-0 lead
Right-handed batters were hitting .321 against Buehrle entering the game. Napoli and the switch-hitting Nava, both hitting from the right side, hit back-to-back solo homers in the fourth inning.
Buehrle was pulled with the Jays down 4-0 and two out in the seventh, after he’d walked Jonny Gomes, Relief pitcher Esmil Rogers’ wild pitch would allow Gomes to score before Napoli hit a three-run lunar launch into the third deck for an 8-0 lead.
“The game was manageable into the seventh but we couldn’t get anything going against Buchholz,” Gibbons said. “That’s really the story.”
Last season in Miami, Buehrle averaged 6-2/3 innings to reach 200 innings, 10 wins and 30 starts for the 12th consecutive season. At his present pace, Buehrle will fall short of the 200-inning mark this season. He’s averaging slightly less than six innings in his six starts
Buehrle arrived in the 12-player deal with Miami in November. Coincidentally, the Marlins and Blue Jays are both 9-1/2 games behind in their respective divisions, Toronto trailing Boston in the AL East, Miami behind Atlanta in the NL East.
Boston made it 2-for-2 over Toronto teams, as the Bruins put away the Maple Leafs in Boston. Many of the 21,094 tickets sold for the game went unused with fans evidently choosing to watch the hockey game. When the Leafs scored their first goal, a little cheer went up but thereafter, nothing.
Buchholz held opponents scoreless for the third time in six starts. Since the start of 2009, he leads the major leagues for winning percentage on the road, going 26-11 in that span.
“This is why we’re winning,” catcher David Ross said. “Starting pitching is where it starts and ends.”
The Blue Jays rotation fell to 5-10 on the season with an earned run average over 5.00, while Boston’s starters are 16-4 with an ERA slightly above 3.00.