With Boston Red Sox (18-13) fans clamoring for his demise and manager John Farrell pressuring him to ramp up his intensity and effectiveness following a porous beginning to the season, starting pitcher Clay Buchholz answered the call with undeniable resolve last Wednesday against the American League-leading Chicago White Sox.
The 31-year old Texan recovered after allowing a two-run bomb to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu in the first inning to last seven innings while limiting Chicago to just two runs and three hits on the night, piloting his team to a crucial 5-2 win which led to them taking the series as a whole.
Buchholz improved his record to 1-3 while upping his ERA to 5.71 from the 6.51 abrasion that had previously braced his stat line while improving his WHIP to 1.41. He tied a season-high with six strikeouts on the night while walking just two and throwing just 98 pitches.
The 6'3" gunslinger emphasized exactly the command that he had been searching for over his previous five starts this season, executing his vicious curveball with perfection in two-strike counts while showcasing that velocity is still present on his fastball.
Clay Buchholz looks to continue momentum against struggling A's
Buchholz will now receive the perfect opportunity to garner his second victory of the season on Monday night as he takes the mound against the futile offensive attack of the Oakland Athletics (14-18) in the opening matchup of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Over their last seven games, in which they have fared a horrific 1-6, the Athletics have plated just 19 baserunners in losses, decreasing their runs per game average to 3.65, placing them in the bottom third of the MLB in that category.
In their 11-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon, Oakland pushed four hits and three runs across the plate in the first inning before being shut out the rest of the way, recording just three hits in the final eight innings before suffering the series defeat.
Josh Reddick searching for history
Despite the team's struggles overall, right fielder Josh Reddick, a former Red Sox, has been the one saving grace for the offense. With a 3-for-3, one-RBI performance on Sunday afternoon, the 29-year-old has amounted eight consecutive hits without recording a single out, tying an Oakland franchise record.
Reddick fared a combined 7-for-9 with two RBI in the Athletics double-header against Baltimore on Saturday, and will look to continue his success against Buchholz, who he is 4-for-9 against in his career.
Boston tries to jump on embattled Sonny Gray
While the Athletics lineup may be scuffling, Boston's offense returned to their mashing ways in Sunday night's 5-1 win over the New York Yankees, with designated hitter David Ortiz crushing a pair of solo shots, shortstop Xander Bogaerts hitting a solo homer himself, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia hammering a two-run home run in the first inning to lead the Red Sox to a triumph and avoid a series sweep at Yankee Stadium.
Boston currently leads the AL in runs scored (156), hits (305), average (.281) and OPS (.795), and will receive the perfect chance to up these marks against the toiling Sonny Gray (3-3, 4.84 ERA) on Monday night.
The 26-year-old has struggled mightily in his last two starts, allowing a combined 11 earned runs on 13 hits in his last nine innings of work, two losses against the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners.
In his most recent outing, an 8-2 loss to Seattle, Gray yielded seven earned runs on 11 hits in seven innings of work, letting up two home runs while witnessing his ERA soar from 3.81 to its current mark.
Gray has experienced success in past outings against Boston, however, relinquishing just three earned runs in 13 career innings versus the Red Sox, currently residing in second-place of the Orioles by a half-game in the AL East.