Originally written on Ted's Army  |  Last updated 7/20/12

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"Clay was excellent," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "To walk a guy leading off an inning, who walks 150 times a year, is no fault. He made some good pitches on Dunn, who came around to score on another Konerko base hit to right. But other than that, he was perfect. he had a good breaking ball, excellent fastball, his changeup was down, both changeups down, competitive the whole way. He looked great." In fact, Buchholz has been dominant lately, with a 4-1 record and a 2.63 ERA over his last seven starts, dating back to May. He's gone at least six innings in each of those seven starts, and has 45 strikeouts, compared to just nine walks. He credits that to the confidence he has in his pitches early on in the game. "That's where I'm at right now," said Buchholz. "It doesn't really matter what it feels like in the bullpen before the game. You've just got to go out there and trust it sometimes, even when you don't throw a good off-speed pitch, you have to keep going back to it. That's sort of what I'm doing right now.

CSNNE - Buchholz: 'I've felt pretty confident'

You don't need to be some sort of baseball insider to realize just how important Clay Buchholz is to the Red Sox.  Not that we've had him for 7 or 8 years, but when Clay is pitching well, it gives the Sox 3 top-end starters.  Something that most teams would kill to have.

This season, though, his importance may just be magnified.  Josh Beckett is having a fairly average Josh Beckett year (which isn't a bad thing, he's just not as dominant as he was last season).  While Jon Lester is having a fairly disappointing year.  The Sox staff is ace-less right now.   And in the AL East, when you're trying to climb into the playoff race, that's a scary position to be in.   You want that one guy (preferably four or five of those guys, to be honest) that you just know will give you the chance to win every time they take the mound.  His taking the ball breeds confidence in the rest of the club, and batters and pitchers alike can feed off of that.  Lester has been that guy for the Sox for a long time.  But not this season.

While we've gotten some good performances from pitchers, no one has had that impact.  I think Clay is on the verge.   It took him a while to get back into the swing of things after his back injury, and then he had that intestinal craziness to overcome, but he's been amazing over his last 7 starts.  In 5 of those starts he's given up two or fewer runs, while pitching at least 7 innings.  He had one poor outing in that span, giving up 5 runs to Miami -- although he earned the victory in that contest.  The Sox have only lost 2 of those 7 games (both to Tampa - both of which Clay pitched well).

I think Clay Buchholz is silently taking the reigns of this rotation.  And if he can continue to pitch like he has, that's just fine with me.  Someone has to.

Rest of the links:

CSNNE - Valentine on Ross: 'What's there not to love?' | Globe - Buchholz was on target all night long | Ross HR allows Red Sox to walk off with victory | Herald - Futures bright for Salem teammates Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts | Cody Ross rescues Red Sox | WEEI - Dustin Pedroia gets right back into line of fire and ‘felt fine at the plate’ | No bull: Cody Ross and the lifelong quest to be a hero

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