Okay, so Buchholz didn’t almost throw a perfect game. But he did pitch well enough to have gotten the win. The fact that he didn’t wasn’t his fault. Just like the offense should be expected to carry a pitcher who throws a complete-game shutout, so too should the offense be expected to carry a pitcher who limits the opposition to only two runs over eight innings.
Buchholz had a one-two-three first and second. He gave up a walk and a subsequent RBI single in the third. He gave up two singles that resulted in another run in the fourth. Other than a walk in the fifth and a single in the eighth, that was it for the Jays yesterday on Buchholz’s watch. He threw 101 pitches, yet again exhibiting his brutal efficiency. He was aggressive and wasn’t afraid to go after the strike zone. All in all, it was a masterful performance. He should have gotten a win; he didn’t deserve a no-decision.
But at least he didn’t pick up the loss. That was all Tazawa’s fault. Tazawa came in for the ninth and gave up a solo shot on his sixth pitch. His fastball was great, but this was a slider. He threw a slider, and he missed. He missed big. Our only response in the bottom of the inning was a double by Middlebrooks. But he never made it to home plate. It was just awful. There was no justice for Buchholz yesterday. No justice whatsoever. It is the job of the relief corps to inherit a situation that they do not make worse. That is their function. If they inherit a lead, they’re supposed to keep it intact. If they inherit a loss, they’re supposed to keep a lid on it so that the offense can turn things around. But they are not supposed to lose ballgames.
In fairness, however, we should have been able to score a sufficient number of runs so as to make that solo shot inconsequential. After all, Tazawa gave up a solo shot; that’s only one run. The reason why it lost us the game was because, at the time, we were tied with the Jays at two. Had we been leading, that home run simply would have tied it up, and we would have gone into extras, and then it would have been possible that we would have won in the end. Even better, had we been able to score more than three runs, then we would have won in nine, all else being equal. So I think it’s fair to say that losing, in this case, was a team effort, Buchholz excluded. (Although you could make an argument that, if Buchholz hadn’t allowed any runs whatsoever, then Tazawa could have allowed the solo shot and we still would have won. And then it becomes a consideration of relative standards, that is, what one thinks is the threshold that acquits a ballplayer and places the blame elsewhere.)
Anyway, the game essentially came down to a pitcher’s duel, which we lost when, not coincidentally, we changed pitches. Like the Jays through eight, we were lucky to score two runs at all and spent most of the game behind by two. We didn’t get on the board until the eighth.
We had some opportunities. Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles in the first. Middlebrooks doubled and Drew walked in the second. Pedroia and Papi hit back-to-back singles in the third. We had absolutely no opportunities in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. Ross led off the eighth with a walk and scored on a triple by Ellsbury. Victorino struck out, but Ellsbury scored on a fielding error. Pedroia reached on that error and stole second, and after Papi struck out, Napoli was walked intentionally. But the rally ended when Gomes struck out looking.
So we lost, 3-2. We left eight men on base, went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and have lost seven of our last nine games.