BOSTON -- When Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second major-league start, just two weeks past his 23rd birthday, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said he was reminded of a young Jim Palmer.
That was almost six years ago. Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, the 29-year-old Buchholz reminded one and all of a young Clay Buchholz, striking out a career-high 11 while flirting with another no-no against the Tampa Bay Rays in Boston’s 5-0 win.
Buchholz, who struck out two batters in each of the first four innings, held the Rays hitless until he shattered Kelly Johnson’s bat with an 0-and-1 curveball to start the eighth. While splinters flew in all directions, the ball found a safe landing place in right field for the Rays’ first hit of the afternoon.
Johnson, who came into the game batting .182, was 0-for-9 lifetime against Buchholz and had been called out on strikes twice Sunday before that single.
A crowd of 35,198 arose as one to salute Buchholz, who on his next pitch induced Sam Fuld to hit into a double play started by first baseman Mike Napoli. Desmond Jennings then lined a double off the Monster in left before Ben Zobrist flied out to rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. just inside the foul line in shallow left, ending Buchholz’s afternoon.
Buchholz, who has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings, has won each of his first three starts, posting an 0.41 ERA in that span. He yielded to Andrew Miller to start the ninth after giving up two singles and walking four, throwing 109 pitches, 69 for strikes.
The right-hander was bidding to become the first Red Sox pitcher since the deadball era (pre-1920) to throw multiple no-hitters. Dutch Leonard (1916, 1918) and Cy Young (1904, 1908) are the only pitchers to throw two no-hitters in a Sox uniform.
The Rays came into the game last in the league in runs scored. They have lost five of their past six games, scoring just eight runs in that span with no home runs and seven extra-base hits.