With 10 wins, Buchholz has arrived

BOSTON -- The Red Sox patiently waited for the real Clay Buchholz to stand up and deliver.

The right-handed starter has done just that this season, and now he's giving the Sox even more.

Buchholz worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night at Fenway Park, allowing only three hits with three walks and four strikeouts to help Boston to a 2-0 victory and a series sweep.

With the victory, he improves to 10-4, joining the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1), the Yankees' Phil Hughes (10-1), the Rays' David Price (10-2) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright as the only 10-game winners in the majors this season.

He also dropped his ERA to a paltry 2.47, which ranks as third-best in the American League, two one-hundredths of a run behind both David Price of the Rays and Seattle's Doug Fister.

Buchholz's 14th start didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked, but he recovered from a shaky first two innings (he allowed five baserunners) and retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced from the third inning on.

"He gathered himself and after that he was pretty economical," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I didn't think he felt like he was throwing the ball where he wanted to tonight. His stuff was good and he competed, but he hit a couple of guys and he walked three early. We're probably pretty fortunate. Once he got through those first two, he got a lot better. He just came out of his delivery a lot more tonight, especially early, more than we've seen in a while -- just a little jumpy."

Francona and pitching coach John Farrell have seen Buchholz struggle in the past, but this season he's been able to settle himself down and concentrate on his pitch-by-pitch mentality. Because of that, Buchholz has earned a decision in each of his 14 starts this season.

Over the past 35 years, only two other Red Sox pitchers have accomplished that feat in their first 14 starts of the season: Tim Wakefield (2007) and Pedro Martinez (1999).

"It's good," said Buchholz. "I've been through a couple of situations like that this year where early in the game, first or second inning, it's a struggle to throw strikes when I need to throw strikes and I've gotten into some situations where I've got runners on with less than two outs and I'm getting out of it somehow. I'm getting some lucky hops right now."

The Red Sox have yet to reach the midway point of the season and Buchholz already has 10 wins. There's a strong possibility he could be an All-Star.

"That's basically what you play for. You play to make an All-Star team and win a World Series," Buchholz said. "You can't think about it too much, but if it happens it'll be great. It would be an honor to participate in something like that. To be named to something like that, as far as playing with the best players in the world, I think a little luck has to go your way for something like that to happen, and you've got to take the best of those situations when luck is going your way."

There's also a strong possibility he could reach 20 wins if he can remain consistent the rest of the way. But he hasn't thought about that, either.

"No," he said. "Because it's so hard to win five. Like I said, I can remember thinking, 'Wow, I don't think I'll ever be able to win 10 games in a season.' A lot of things have to happen, and in order for that to happen the team has to hit and your defense has to play well."

He received both offense and defense in a timely fashion Sunday night.

When he needed one of his teammates to make a spectacular play, someone came through. When he needed the offense to accomplish just enough, the bats did.

Defensively, the Sox's middle infielders turned two key double plays in the second and third innings, while third baseman Adrian Beltre made a tremendous play in the fifth to take a hit away from the Dodgers' Jamey Carroll.

"That play he made tonight, I didn't think there was [any] chance that play was going to be made," Buchholz said. "That's why he's here now. He's awesome. He makes hard plays look routine. That's a big deal, especially at that corner, because balls gets smoked down there and you sort of need to sacrifice your body to make the plays, and that's what he does."

Offensively, Pedroia turned in one of his typical heads-up, all-out hustle plays, and then scored the game-winning run. In the bottom of the first inning, Pedroia singled and stole second with David Ortiz at the plate. Because the Dodgers had the shift on, and the throw attempting to get Pedroia got away, he quickly got to his feet and made it to third with no one covering. He later scored on a week dribbler by Kevin Youkilis to give Boston a 1-0 lead.

"All good baserunners always know where the defense is," said Francona. "His instincts are so good that, actually, when he took off, I thought he thought the ball went into left-center field. I thought he had too many Red Bulls. That's great baserunning and we needed it."

Buchholz needed it, too.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.