Now that, my friends, is more like it. We need to be doing more of that. And just to be clear, “that” in this particular case reverse to everything good and right about baseball. Because that’s what we featured yesterday, and that’s what we need to be featuring every day.
Buchholz pitched an incredible gem. It was absolutely his best start of the year, which actually says a lot because he’s been pitching well lately. But this one blew even his former best start of the year out of the water. He pitched a full eight innings this time, a season high, while giving up only two runs on six hits. Granted, both of those runs came on home runs, a solo shot in the third with two out and a solo shot in the seventh with two out. But I have said before that, when a pitcher is locked in, and I mean really locked in, it won’t be so unusual that if he does give up any runs, those runs will be scored via the long ball. That’s because, if a pitcher is that on, the only way he’ll give up a run is by making an isolated mistake that’s detected by the opposition, and a home run is what usually results from that. A pitcher having a spectacular night won’t usually give up too many runs, if any at all, via run manufacturing or small ball.
Anyway, Buchholz did hit a batter, but he also walked only two and struck out seven. He threw 108 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes. Phenomenal fastball and curveball, great cutter and changeup. Excellent consistency throughout the game, including with inning pitch counts, which ranged from ten in the fourth to seventeen in the seventh. And anytime you can associate the word “consistency” with some part of this team is always a cause for celebration.
Surprisingly enough, he had only one inning in which he faced the minimum: the sixth, a particularly impressive inning. He threw fourteen pitches, all but four of which were strikes. And all three outs were secured via the called strikeout, the first in five pitches ending with a curveball, the second on six ending with a curveball, and the second on three ending with a fastball. But he faced only four in five and five in two. He had his first strikeout in the first, a lengthy eight-pitch affair that ended with a fastball. Same for his second strikeout in the third. His third and seventh strikeouts in the fifth and eighth, respectively, were speedy by comparison at only four pitches, the third ending with a changeup and the last ending with a fastball.
Atchison pitched the ninth and had himself a spotless inning. By the way, his ERA is less than one.
The lineup was having a game as awesome as the pitching staff’s. We went down in order in the first, but that was by no means an indication of things to come. Papi led off the second with a solo shot, and that was more like it. The homer came at the end of a lengthy, ten-pitch at-bat and was hit, as you can imagine, with a full count. Every single one of those ten pitches was a fastball, half two-seams and half four-seams, and all were clocked at least at ninety-three miles per hour; his home-run pitch was the fastest at ninety-seven. He was patient, he waited for his pitch, he unleashed one of those classic Papi swings, and he ruled the opposite field.
Nava doubled in the third and scored on a single by Gonzalez. We went down in order again in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth, Nava singled, Gonzalez doubled, and Papi walked to load the bases. Unfortunately, compared to what we could have and should have done, we did pretty much nothing with that golden opportunity to blow the game wide open; Salty brought one run home by grounding into a force out, but then Middlebrooks grounded into a double play to end the inning.
It was alright, though, because we did plenty in the next frame. Sweeney led it off with a double. Aviles struck out and Punto grounded out after that. But then we had four straight run-scoring plays, right through to the end of the frame: Podsednik singled in Sweeney, Nava doubled in Podsednik, Gonzalez singled in Nava and moved to second base, and then Papi singled in Gonzalez. As part of the same play, Papi was then out at second base to end it.
And that was it. Six of our fifteen his were for extra bases, and we had four multi-hit games: Sweeney went two for four with that double, Papi went two for three with the home run, Gonzalez went three for five with a double, and it was Nava who had an absolutely monster night, going four for five with three doubles. We won by a cool 7-2 thanks to a spectacular starting pitching performance, a spectacular relief pitching performance, and a spectacular hitting performance. And that’s what it means to win like a team.