Feat without Clay: Sox Prove Mettle sans Buchholz

Buchholz

Long time no see, Clay.

The Red Sox are closing in on a month without Clay Buchholz, and there’s no indication that his return is imminent. John Farrell hasn’t even ruled out a post-All Star re-activation, which would make it a full month and a half without our ace. But don’t tell the rest of the team that.

Unlike many teams would in the same situation, the Sox have played admirably. Some seemingly strong clubs are mediocre teams who go roughly .500 four days out of the week, then chalk up a near-automatic ‘W’ on nights when their ace takes the mound. This doesn’t sound like too impressive a strategy, but a team that does so – roughly .500 when their ace isn’t pitching, closer to 1.000 when he is – ends up with a winning percentage in the .600 neighborhood, only to be unmasked as a fraud by an injury to their messianic star. The Sox have had that savior this year in Buchholz; they’ve lost only one game he’s started, and he hasn’t lost any. But they aren’t slouching when he doesn’t pitch, either.

Since Clay last pitched, the Sox are 11-9, including a couple tough losses in Baltimore and Detroit, which works out to a .550 winning percentage. Over that span, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey have combined for 6 quality starts in 8 outings, including four consecutive performances of 7IP or more and 2 ER or fewer from one-time goat Lackey. The Sox have scored exactly as many runs as they’ve let up, 95 each over 20 games, but despite a minor home run drought, I don’t think anyone would say the bats are slumping: Jacoby Ellsbury is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak, Pedey and Papi are 3rd and 7th in the American League in hitting, and Jose Iglesias is still over .400. The two series in which the Sox really struggled were against Baltimore and Detroit – series that a Buchholz outing would have totally changed the complexion of. Suffice it to say that on June 8th, the last time we saw Clay Buchholz, the Sox were 1.5 games ahead of New York for first place. Now (albeit with a little help from the Yankees’ coach-turned-pumpkin of a season – bye bye, Texiera), the Sox are 3.5 games ahead of Baltimore. With Jon Lester hopefully on the comeback trail and the offense continuing to rake, the Sox can win without Buchholz. So just imagine what they can do with him.

Lackey Pitching in Clutch Time

Lackey

John Lackey for the Cy Young?

Seriously though, the dude is hurling.  I guess it helps a pitcher to not eat KFC chicken and drink beer during games, who knew? You could tell Lackey was back to his old self before the DL stint.  The strikeouts were there; he was locating pitches, and keeping the squad in games.  Now he’s back and still dealing.  He’s starting to pitch like he should have when he first signed.  Clearly it’s impossible for Lackey to completely atone for his first few disappointing seasons.  I mean the guy was an ace in LA then he comes here and lays an egg. Expectations were sky high.  Now there more like ground level high, but so far he is exceeding them.

With Dempster faltering, Lackey couldn’t have picked a better time to start pitching well.

If Lackey can stay consistent this gives the Sox four formidable starters.  Dempster has his moments, but he’s inconsistent.  With a dependable Lackey the Sox have a scary, good rotation.  If he is pitching like this come playoff time, watch out.  I would not want to face those three guys in a five game series.

P.S. Surprise, surprise another guy performing again after Beckett gets shipped to LA. What a rat.