Frustration with Clay Buchholz's performance mounting

BOSTON -- Time and again, the scene has played out in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse, Clay Buchholz facing the music after another outing marred by early turbulence, trying to explain to dozens of reporters what went wrong out there.

"It's really frustrating. You play to win, we won the game, so that cures a little bit of it," the Red Sox right-hander said, his long face running counter to an otherwise overjoyed clubhouse on the heels of another David Ortiz walk-off. "But it's got me scratching my head at points."

Of Buchholz's eight starts so far this season, Saturday was already the fifth time he has surrendered five earned runs. In the second inning, his pitches were all over the strike zone, and he ended up paying dearly after Houston's George Springer turned on a waist-high, 90-mph cutter and cranked it off the ThinkEnergy billboard high above the Monster seats in left-center field for his second grand slam of the season, which gave the Astros a 5-2 lead.

It was mostly smooth sailing the rest of the way after Buchholz got past that, totaling five strikeouts over the third through sixth innings. After inducing only three swinging strikes in the first two innings, Buchholz hunkered down and got nearly a dozen over his final four.

Buchholz worked in his changeup artfully in the third, ringing up Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Valbuena on back-to-back at-bats with changeups away and diving out of the zone. Then, to finish it off, he served up an 80-mph change to Preston Tucker to induce a fly out.

Buchholz worked some more craft in the fifth with two more strikeouts, catching Carlos Correa looking at a fastball down and in, then whiffing Gonzalez on a low-and-away changeup a second time.

"I thought he had better stuff today than his last time out," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, alluding to Monday's 14-7 win over Oakland. "I thought he was more powerful and crisp, and settled in after the second inning. He was able to give us the six innings and stabilize the game."

After confirming in his postgame news conference that Buchholz would be making his next scheduled start, Farrell was twice asked what he thought was contributing to the early-inning struggles of his nominal No. 2 starter. While pointing out the quality in his May 4 start against Chicago -- which involved his first win and his season bests for strikeouts (six) and earned runs (two) -- Farrell put it in layman's terms.

"It's not by lack of effort on his part, lack of work in between starts," Farrell said. "To simplify it, it's about being a little more in command in the count."