14-7: Buchholz, Sox sweep Rangers 8-3


In the annual early Patriot’s Day game, Clay Buchholz (1-1) faced his former teammate Kason Gabbard and worked through some early jams to earn his first win of the season, and a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. A costly error and some defensive gaffes cost the Rangers, as they fell 8-3.

Buchholz came out throwing a 94-95 mph fastball today, but had some problems locating the curveball early. He did get it back and used it to good effect later. He lasted six innings, shutting out the Rangers on 5 hits and 2 walks. He reached the 100 pitch plateau for the first time this season, and used all his pitches well.

There isn’t much room for calling pitches with Tim Wakefield on the mound, but I’m not sure I like the way Kevin Cash called this game. He was calling way too many changeups and breaking balls for Buchholz in the early going. He didn’t establish the fastball, and I think it cost him some deep counts and extra pitches. Here’s what I mean:

1st: 6 fastballs, 4 sliders, 4 curves, 4 changeups
2nd: 7 sliders, 7 curveballs, 5 fastballs, 5 changeups

For comparison, when Jason Varitek has caught Buchholz, it’s been about 46% fastballs, 26% changeups, 22% curves and 6% sliders. Those off-speed pitches are effective because they are different from the fastball. Overutilize them, and they are not as good at fooling hitters. Breaking balls are also more stressful on the pitcher’s arm, so you can’t keep pitching like this without long-term consequences. But I’m nit-picking, aren’t I?

For the Rangers, Gabbard pitched well, but slipped on the mound as he tried to throw a pitch in the 2nd inning. He was later pulled before the bottom of the 3rd, and that became a never-ending inning for the Rangers. It’s hard to figure out how a soft-tossing lefty like Gabbard is successful, but he threw first-pitch strikes to 6 of the 9 hitters he faced, that’s a good start.

Dustin Nippert (1-2) pitched reasonably well but fell victim to some defensive breakdowns and bad luck that exploded in a 5-run 4th inning. Ian Kinsler went back and leapt to snag a Cash liner, and had Julio Lugo off of first base. But he hurried an off-balance throw, and it skipped past Ben Broussard, allowing Lugo to advance to second. Later, Milton Bradley was near the track in left field, and lost a David Ortiz fly ball in the sun. He fell down, as the ball nearly hit him on the head, and that ended up being an RBI double for Papi. The Rangers led the AL with 21 errors coming into today, and watching them play can be a little bit Keystone Cop-like.

Nippert was clearly frustrated after this, and started overthrowing his fastball. He touched 99 mph on the gun, but ended up walking Kevin Youkilis and Drew to load the bases before finally striking out Jed Lowrie to end the inning. That was Drew’s second walk of the inning. Whew.

Buchholz came back after the long wait and pitched well, striking out Kinsler (on a swing that he checked) and keeping his fastball down.

With Manny Ramirez and Sean Casey both sitting, this lineup was a little thin. But the offense did their part in helping to put the game away; Lugo had four hits, Jacoby Ellsbury swiped two more bases, and Papi slammed a bona fide 2-RBI double in the fifth inning to make it 8-0. The top 3 in the order went a combined 6-11 with two walks; not too shabby. The offense did great, getting 11 hits and drawing 11 walks; the Texas staff threw a hefty 180 pitches over 8 innings.

Ellsbury did make a little baserunning goof, trying to score on a shallow fly to right-center in the 3rd. What’s that rule about not making the last out at home?

David Aardsma came on in the 7th, walked two men and gave up an RBI wall ball to Gerald Laird, and Javier Lopez failed to get Josh Hamilton, allowing the Rangers to get their second run. It was a mixed bag for Lopez, but when he gets hit, he gets hit pretty hard, it seems. Manny Delcarmen came on to finish it out, and seemed a little too enamored with his straight fastball, giving up back-to-back doubles to Michael Young and Hamilton; those are pretty good hitters, and you can’t get sloppy with them, even at 98 mph.

One last thing: is it my imagination, or have I seen Joe Thurston on ’24’ with Jack Bauer? That’s Roger Cross there on the right, otherwise known as Curtis Manning.

Joe ThurstonRoger Cross

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