Boston’s Clay Buchholz entered Monday’s game against Minnesota as baseball’s best pitcher so far this year.
The Minnesota Twins must not have gotten the memo.
Minnesota jumped on Buchholz for two runs in the first inning and eventually tagged him for four total runs — the most he’s allowed in seven starts this season. He also lasted just six innings, the shortest of his outings this year.
As good as Buchholz has been, the 28-year-old righty was the target of accusations during his last start prior to Monday. During Buchholz’s start last week against the Blue Jays, Toronto radio host Dirk Hayhurst accused Buchholz of doctoring the baseball. One day later, Toronto broadcast analyst and former Twins pitcher Jack Morris said he re-watched the game on video and came to the same conclusion.
With the accusations out in the open, all eyes were certainly on Buchholz — who denied the charges — during Monday’s start. As it turned out, Buchholz put together his roughest outing of the year after carrying a league-best 1.01 ERA into Monday’s start after allowing just five runs in 44-2/3 innings. He gave up back-to-back doubles in the top of the first inning to Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham to yield the first run. Justin Morneau then singled to center off Buchholz’s glove, scoring Willingham for a 2-0 Twins lead.
Minnesota took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Aaron Hicks doubled in a run. After Boston scored in the bottom of the fourth to give Buchholz his first run of support, the Twins answered with a run in the top of the fifth. But Buchholz settled down in the sixth and retired the side in what turned out to be his final inning. It was the first time Buchholz pitched less than seven innings this year. His 116 pitches were a season high.
Ultimately, though, the four runs Buchholz allowed did not end up costing his team as Boston went on to win 6-5 in 11 innings. It was the first start Buchholz did not win, however, as he remains 6-0 on the year.
Mauer thrives at Fenway Park: Twins catcher Joe Mauer had played just 16 games at Fenway Park before Monday, batting .283 with three homers, four doubles and 10 RBI at Boston’s historic ballpark.
Mauer had perhaps his best game at Fenway on Monday, going 2-for-5 with two doubles, a walk and two runs. But Mauer also impacted the game defensively. After Jacoby Ellsbury doubled in the fifth inning, Mauer made an athletic play to jump and catch a relay throw from shortstop Pedro Florimon. While replays showed that Mauer may have missed the tag on Stephen Drew, the home plate umpire called Drew out to end the inning as Mauer’s play saved a run.
Three innings later, Mauer again helped end an inning with his defense. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a two-out walk but Pedro Ciriaco took off for third base. Mauer was able to throw out Ciriaco to end the eighth inning.
That marked the sixth base runner Mauer has thrown out so far this season on 10 attempts (60 percent). Last season, he threw out just nine potential base stealers in 65 attempts, a career-low 14 percent.
Dozier’s late-game heroics: Brian Dozier picked a great time for his first home run of the season.
Minnesota’s second baseman hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game at 5-5. It was just the seventh home run of Dozier’s young career and it was no doubt his biggest. Dozier took Joel Hanrahan deep to left field over the Green Monster on a 3-2 pitch.
Dozier also homered at Fenway Park last season off Alfredo Aceves, a two-run shot on Aug. 2. That homer also came in the top of the ninth with two outs in the Twins’ 5-0 win over the Red Sox.
While Dozier’s first home run of the year helped to extend Monday’s game, the Twins failed to come up with a big hit in extra innings and fell 6-5.