Buchholz gets by fine without best stuff

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

BALTIMORE -- There were a few miles an hour missing on Clay Buchholz's fastball Friday night, but there were extenuating circumstances.

"I was sleeping all day yesterday," Buchholz said.

He assured one and all that's not part of his customary routine. Usually, he at least plays catch the day before, but the Red Sox flew all night from Denver on Wednesday, which meant falling into bed around 7 a.m. Thursday, and the Orioles had a home game Thursday night, leaving Buchholz little recourse but to adjust.

"My body felt a little lethargic," he said. "I felt it when I woke up this morning that it might be a grinding day today."

But even if his fastball registered just 88 on the radar guns Friday night, he had a couple of things work in his favor in a 12-3 win over the Orioles. One was the Sox offense: The Sox gave him five runs even before he went to the mound, and increased the lead to 8-0 by the third.

"I'm just glad the team could score all those runs," he said. "It didn't put a whole lot of stress on the outing."

The second was that even without his best stuff, he went seven innings, threw 113 pitches, did not walk a batter and allowed just three runs, all coming on home runs: a two-run home run by Adam Jones in the third and a solo shot by Chris Davis in the sixth. That matched the number of home runs Buchholz had allowed in 101 1/3 innings entering the game, which might raise some eyebrows, although Jones (33) and Davis (53) have 86 home runs between them.

So does this mean the Buchholz, who has now made four starts since spending 94 days on the disabled list is not the same guy who was undefeated in nine decisions before he went down with shoulder bursitis?

"He set a pretty high standard for himself this year," manager John Farrell said. "Games when he goes out and gives up three or four runs, people start to wonder, 'Is he OK?' He's fine, and we've been able to get those four starts, build pitch count and put him in a good position to go forward."

Buchholz said he thought in his last start his velocity was similar to what it had been earlier in the season. Obviously, that wasn't the case Friday, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"He pitched with what he felt he had," Farrell said. "He's very routine-oriented. He felt fatigue, a little sluggish."

That he resorted to other weapons, Farrell said, "was a sign of maturity more than anything. There's not anything physically restricting him. He's answered the physical question for sure. On a night where he was not as sharp, he still kept them in check."

Buchholz, now 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA, concurred.

"I feel good," he said. "It's all about command, control, location of each pitch. I was going good before I got hurt, but I've said all along I'm not asking to get back to that point, but somewhere close. The last four starts, I got better at a different facet of my game with each start. I'm starting to have command of all my pitches. Slowly but surely I got there."