Buchholz has his best start to date

BOSTON -- The Red Sox's opportunism at the plate wasn't the only thing trending in the right direction Friday night.

Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz made it back-to-back strong outings for the Sox, holding the Oakland Athletics to three hits, a season-low for the Sox right-hander, in 6 1/3 innings. The only run Buchholz allowed came in the third, when he gave up a leadoff triple to John Jaso, then bounced a breaking ball that slipped through catcher A.J. Pierzynski for a two-out wild pitch.

"He looked great," said Dustin Pedroia, whose sixth-inning grand slam assured Buchholz of his second win. "His stuff was crisp, it had the finish. You could tell he had great stuff with the swings they were taking. That's Clay, we've seen it before. When he gets rolling, we're going to get solid innings out of him every time."

Manager John Farrell also offered a positive review.

"I thought he continued the way he threw the ball his last time out in Toronto," Farrell said. "He showed good tempo. The arm strength continues to climb and it's directly correlated to the action to his secondary pitches. That's a good hitting team that he was able to slow down with some off-speed pitches. A solid outing again tonight."

In addition to his off-speed stuff, Buchholz's velocity continues to improve. He touched 93 while spending most of the night in the 91-92 range.

"I would say it's a continuation of the final three innings in Toronto," Farrell said. "Each pitch had definition -- in other words, his curveball had good depth, his cutter has got some power and some added tilt to it. He's just put himself in a better position in his delivery to execute pitches. He's come out of it physically in good shape and he's on a little bit of a run here."

Buchholz acknowledged the increased arm strength, which allowed him to trust his stuff more. He was especially pleased with his cutter.

"It was the best one I've had all year," he said. "I've messed around with a couple of different grips and basically got back to square one with it. Last year, I was trying to manipulate the ball rather than just let it work out of my hand. I changed a couple of grips with it and tonight I basically got back to the same grip that I had."