I'll admit it. Clay had me pretty nervous. We held onto him like the crown jewels all through June and July, when his value was rising. The trade deadline came and went with interesting moves left out there, but we kept Clay. Our top-line righty of the future. Then Clay came out in his first start after the trade deadline and put up this line against Baltimore: 4 IP, 9 hits, 4 BB, 7 ER. So I was getting a little nervous.
Since then, Buchholz has stood firm against some of the best competition in the league, and with each start he's providing more and more assurance. First it was the start against Sabathia and the Yankees. He took the loss, but went 6 full, giving up only 2 ERs. Then there was Verlander and the Tigers, at the time Buchholz's best start of the year - he went 7 and gave up only 2 ERs. Yes, walks were a problem in both - walking 5 and then 3 - but he was out there working hard, getting out of jams, and wracking up innings.
The player's progress continued last night, when Clay went up against the ace to end all aces, Roy Halladay. And this time he walked only one man. And he went 6 innings, scattering 6 hits and giving up only 1 run.
Even more importantly, he was finally commanding. He was throwing 4 seamers consistently at 95 throughout the night, his 2 seamer was on the outside corner, and he was mixing in curves and changes. While the latter two pitches are generally considered his best, we've all seen him use them as a crutch maybe a little too often since the call-up. Last night he was going after guys with the gas, and actually seemed to have enough to put the hammer down. The star of the night had to be the late movement on the fastball.
This was more the Clay Buchholz that we'd been preparing for all year. If he can carry this momentum forward, it would go a long way in a rotation that is suddenly a serious concern as the playoff push settles in.
If pressed, there's really only one explanation you can come up with - it was the baserunning. Is it possible that the Rangers pinch-running incident was so embarassing that he's lost a bit of ego and is just out there pitching in the moment? Almost certainly not, but dammit, it's late August, we need to start making up some BS about karma. Kevin Millar's not gonna do it for us.