There is very little going right for Clay Buchholz this season. From all the homers, to the terrible fastball location, to inconsistent secondary offerings, there is a reason why his ERA is what it is.
Still, when it comes to issues off the mound, Clay Buchholz has been the most fortunate man in the game. In fact, it's not even close: Buchholz' 12.07 runs of support rank tops in the majors by about a run and a half over that of his teammate Felix Doubront. Even as bad as he's been, the Sox have somehow managed to, time and again, pull him out of harm's way with massive offensive performances.
Monday was no different in this regard. Clay Buchholz was bad, bad, bad. While he certainly seemed to be on for the first two innings, he collapsed under the slightest bit of pressure, and ended up with a truly awful showing in the box score--if not for the five runs in under six innings, then for the four walks, six hits, and only two strikeouts. Once again, however, the Sox were there for him.
Every single batter in the Boston lineup picked up at least one hit, with four managing multi-hit games. Especially impressive were Will Middlebrooks, who held up on a tempting 1-2 curveball before slapping an RBI single up the middle in the seventh as part of a three-hit night, and David Ortiz, who launched one of the longest homers of the year to right field to revive the Sox in the sixth. Daniel Nava also continued his run of strong performances, going 2-for-3 and giving Boston the first baserunner of the game in a two-run third.
The bullpen, too, made its mark on the game. A unit that has been the best in the major leagues since the beginning of May, the pen is even starting to see some roles worked out as time passes. While the Sox are still seemingly in search of the eighth-inning setup man they were hoping first Mark Melancon, then Franklin Morales could be, they have suddenly found two exceptional firemen, if you will--the first option in cases of big jams.
Andrew Miller seems to have become the go-to man in situations where a flagging starter has put some dangerous runners on base, coming in to save Buchholz after he put two men on with one out in the sixth. And, should the same situation present itself in later innings, Vicente Padilla has been remarkable at keeping cleaning up messes. So far Padilla has allowed not one of the 15 runners he's inherited to cross home plate.
As for who will finally fill that setup role, the Sox seem to have pegged Rich Hill to get the next shot at it, but the lefty hasn't excelled in that position thus far. Though he has still seen strong results in his limited innings, Hill hasn't felt quite as solid as he did last year, sometimes struggling with control and seeming all-too-hittable at times. Perhaps the answer for the Sox is as simple as turning back to a former option in Mark Melancon. He's been incredible so far in the minor leagues.
The Sox will go for a fourth straight win and aim to finally rise above .500 Tuesday night as Felix Doubront takes the mound against Brian Matusz.