NEW YORK -- This was not his manager talking. Not his pitching coach, a fellow pitcher, or either of his catchers.
This was a man who makes his living trying to make pitchers look as inconsequential and helpless as he possibly can. Pitchers are a hitter's natural adversary -- even between teammates, the lines are crossed with care, and only occasionally.
So when David Ortiz lavishes the kind of praise he bestowed upon Clay Buchholz after the Boston Red Sox right-hander ran his record to a perfect 8-0 with a rain-shortened (5½ innings), 3-0 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday night, you tend to heed his words.
"Unbelievable, unbelievable," said Ortiz, whose 10th home run of the season came in support of Buchholz's first start since May 22, the right-hander having been skipped in the rotation because of some discomfort in the AC joint at the top of his shoulder.
"I mean, his command is ridiculous. You know what I'm saying?" Ortiz said. "I watch Buchholz pitch and I get goose bumps."
As a designated hitter, Ortiz has a chance to watch Buchholz not only from the dugout, but frequently on the clubhouse TV, which allows a much better view of his assortment of fastballs, two-seamers, sliders, changeups and the occasional splitter.
"He throws every pitch for a strike, in any situation," Ortiz said. "I mean, his confidence and his focus, it's ridiculous. I watch the game more than a lot of the guys, and I sense that when he's on the mound, you see how he's focused, how he executes, and his numbers talk about themselves."
Buchholz allowed two singles in five innings Sunday night: an infield hit by Ichiro Suzuki in the second, a ground-ball single by Austin Romine in the third. He issued his only walk of the game, a full-count pass to Robinson Cano, in the first inning. Those were the Yankees' only base-runners, and none of them advanced past first base.
He toyed with Mark Teixeira, striking him out twice. He fanned cleanup man Travis Hafner on three pitches. The Yankees did not hit a fair ball in the air to the outfield. Brett Gardner's line drive stabbed by shortstop Stephen Drew in the third may have been the only ball squared up by a Yankees hitter all night.
The only obstacle Buchholz could not overcome was the rain, a 37-minute interruption of play in the sixth inning that led Sox manager John Farrell to call left-hander Andrew Miller into the game to replace Buchholz. Miller was still throwing his warm-ups when play was called again after a resumption of just four minutes. The game was called for good 45 minutes later, at 12:10 a.m.
Buchholz has now made 11 starts. He has allowed more than two earned runs in just one of them. Including Sunday's shortened affair, he has held the opposition scoreless four times. He has allowed one earned run in his past 16 innings.
His earned run average is now 1.62, lowest in the majors. He is the first Sox pitcher to win his first eight decisions with a sub-2 ERA since Sonny Siebert in 1971. He is the first Sox pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008 to win his first eight decisions of the season. His ERA is the lowest by a Red Sox starter through his first 11 starts since the ultimate goose-bump-inducing pitcher, Pedro Martinez, was at 1.44 through 11 starts in 2001.
"Buchholz, the way he's pitching, it seems like he goes out there and says, 'I got this,'" Ortiz said. "His confidence, the way he throws the ball, is ridiculous. I watch on TV, I watch in the dugout, even watching on TV, he throws pitches that surprise you." Ortiz widened his eyes and made like he was jumping back in shock.
"You're like, 'Whoa.' That's how filthy he is. He's in that groove, he's in that groove."
And he's healthy again. Buchholz said he felt no discomfort whatsoever Sunday. And when he goes home, he said, he has no immediate plans to hold his toddler daughter. He said she fell asleep while he was snuggling in his arms upon his return from Chicago after his previous start, leading to the irritation in his joint.
"She'll be asleep by the time I get home," he said.