Clay Buchholz got lit up in the Red Sox’ 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. He lasted just four innings after surrendering five earned runs on six hits and three walks. The Sox were optimistic that Buchholz would step up this season and finally be the pitcher that he’s capable of being, but it doesn’t look like anything has changed. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
A year ago, we were hoping that Clay would miraculously transform himself into a number one starter. Well, we the fans weren’t exactly sold on it, but that was the idea that Red Sox management tried to get us on board with. In fact, we were told we have five number one starters when we actually had zero.
As has been the case since he entered the league in 2007, Clay has failed to live up to the delusional expectations that we’ve managed to set for him every single year. On April 12, 2015, his second start as a “number one”, he gave up seven runs in the first inning of a 14-4 loss at Yankee Stadium. That was the end of that experiment and it was the moment that people began to sense another miserable season was coming for the Red Sox. You can’t win if your best pitcher sucks.
This year, the problem of not having an ace was taken care of when David Price was acquired. On Tuesday, you saw a glimpse of what he can do. Unfortunately, the issue of Clay Buchholz is still prevalent as he’s now being counted on as the number two guy. Over the off-season, John Farrell continued to set unrealistic goals for the 31 year-old right hander by saying that he’ll reach 200 innings in 2016 for the first time in his career. That’s going to be a tough mark to hit if he can’t last more than four innings in one outing.
It’s deja vu all over again. Much like that time he got shelled a year ago, there’s a good chance that Wednesday night’s loss is a sign of things to come. And much like last year, we knew what the team’s weakness was before the season even started. Still, management tried to assure us that everything was okay until that weakness was exposed. Last year it was having no starting pitching, this year it’s only having one solid starter. Not much of an improvement if you ask me.
Clay Buchholz has had countless dominant performances over the course of his career. The problem is that they’re mixed in with a barrage of losses in which he completely self-implodes on the mound and doesn’t have the mental fortitude to bounce back. Since his rookie year in 2007, he’s only had one season in which he consistently produced great starts and pitched the way he’s capable of pitching while managing to stay healthy. That was 2010, when he posted a 2.33 ERA and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting. It’s probably not a coincidence that that was also a contract year.
Since then, the only other flash of consistency that we’ve seen was 2013 when he started off the season 11-0 before disappearing because of some bogus injury.
I’m done talking about what his biggest detriment is, whether it be mental or physical. At this point it’s obvious that it’s both, but who even cares anymore? The bottom line now is that we need to stop relying on this guy to win baseball games. If he’s our second best starter then there’s a strong possibility that we’ll be seeing another last place finish. Our only hope now is for Eduardo Rodriguez to get healthy and continue to progress and Joe Kelly to revive his once-promising career.
It’s a shame that such a young, talented line up is likely going to be held back by a lackluster pitching rotation. Fortunately the Sox bullpen has improved, so the plan at this point seems to be to bring in the relievers to clean up the mess after four innings and hope that our talented offense can close the deficit. Sounds like a championship squad if I’ve ever seen one.
Follow Jack Bardsley on Twitter @BostonsBigFour