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Clay Buchholz sports look of a winner for Red Sox

TORONTO -- The haircut? Well, that might take some getting used to.

“The Clay Buchholz version of Joe Kelly," fellow Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson said when asked to describe the look Buchholz is now sporting -- both sides closely shaved, stringy strands of hair falling in the back, with lots of scalp showing. “It’s the attempt."

Maybe it’s because Buchholz has such a thin face, but if he was aiming to mimic fellow pitcher Kelly, it didn’t quite have the desired effect.

This was taking the lean and hungry look to an extreme, although it could land him a walk-on role in the new "Mad Max" movie.

It’s understandable, given how things have gone for Buchholz this spring, that he would seek to alter his appearance, if only to serve to change his karma. But when he walked three Toronto batters in the first inning, matching his season high in walks in any start, it appeared the next step for Buchholz was to enter the witness protection program.

But the right-hander, who has enjoyed more success here than in any other venue, enjoyed the benefit of a four-spot put up by the Sox in the first inning, profited from double plays turned in each of the first two innings that kept Toronto off the scoreboard, and then settled in nicely for a much-needed 6-3 win over the Blue Jays.

Much needed for the Sox, losers of seven of their past eight coming in, which included back-to-back defeats to the Blue Jays in which they were outscored by a cumulative 14-1 tally.

Much needed for Buchholz, who had given up a total of 15 hits and nine earned runs in his previous two starts and has been dismayingly unpredictable in what he is bringing to the mound on a given night.

"It stinks to lose," said Buchholz, who as the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox's pitching staff is accorded some privileges, such as pitching the season opener, but also has to absorb more of the blame when the rotation is putting up numbers as horrific as this one has.

“Regardless of the level you play at, it stinks to lose," he continued. “I think everybody here takes it to heart because we're the Boston Red Sox and we know this team is built around winning. When you're not doing that or you're not getting the breaks, it sort of wears on you."

The first-inning Red Sox outburst, their biggest of the season in their first at-bats, might indeed have been precipitated by a favorable break, when Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar nearly made a sensational diving catch of Mookie Betts’ liner to right-center, but couldn’t hold on to the ball on impact, Betts flying to third for a triple.

But just as importantly, the inning was kept alive when David Ortiz threw his considerable body into a hard slide into second base, denting second baseman Devon Travis just enough to cause him to throw late to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, enabling Hanley Ramirez, by an eyelash, to stay out of an inning-ending double play. Pablo Sandoval followed with a double and Mike Napoli cleared the bases with a three-run home run.

In the bottom of the first, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia took a pretty good hit from Travis but still managed to have enough on his throw to turn a double play started by Sandoval, giving Buchholz a chance to turn in a shutdown inning after the Sox scored. That has not been a regular feature of the Sox's landscape this season.

“To score four runs in the first, maybe that let our guys relax a little bit," manager John Farrell said. “Clay went out and kind of felt his way through the first inning, then settled into a great rhythm."

Best of all, from the Sox's perspective, is that he threw strikes. There would be no more free passes, Buchholz pitching to contact and letting his fielders take care of business behind him.

When Sandoval hit a two-run home run to make it 6-1 in the fifth inning, the Sox were looking at a much more relaxed flight across the Continental Divide than they would have had the losing cycle continued.

And when it was over, Buchholz had to compete with Ortiz’s loud singing from the shower to be heard by reporters. The Sox are now 1-0 post-haircut, and 1-0 since a players-only meeting the day before.

“There was plenty of life in the clubhouse," Farrell said. “It was lively, the music was playing like normal, and we went out and played a very good game."