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Scores updated at the end of each quarter. Winner
After not pitching since June 8th due to injury, Clay Buchholz returned to the mound and looked really good. We're talking about a guy who came out of the gate this season 9-0 with a sub 2 ERA who's been out for three months. Five innings pitched with three hits, six strikeouts and 0 runs.
Granted, it was against a Tampa Rays offense that is struggling, to say the least, but you have to be excited at the prospect of Clay returning to early season form. I'm not completely buying into that just yet as I'd like to see him string together a few more starts showing consistency heading into October but, again, you have to be excited about that start last night.
Up 8 1/2 games on the Rays with 16 games to play, it makes sense to start thinking about the post-season. It's not an original premise to say pitching is most important in a playoff series. How can you not be confident in the four-man rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Lackey and Peavy? Throw in, (not pun intended), a pretty solid bullpen and a closer in Koji Uehara who has retired the last 31 batters he's faced and it's a recipe for success.
Speaking of Uehara, how great is this guy to watch? He becomes the closer basically by default with injuries to Bailey and Hanrahan and the performance of Tazawa and has flourished. What we're feeling at home is exactly what they're feeling in the dugout and on the field. Uehara has been and continues to be spectacular. It goes back to my first sentence of this blog, the fourth option for the Red Sox closer ends up being the most dominant in baseball.
I've also heard a lot about the Red Sox not being able to beat good pitching this season. While the evidence may have been there in the first half, these last few months has been anything but with another example coming last night against David Price of the Rays. Timely hitting and manufacturing a few runs with good starting pitching and a solid closer is a blueprint on how to win in October. It's all there for Boston and we've seen it there for most of the season. Getting Buchholz back and pitching well only makes Boston that much more dangerous.