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Buchholz buckles down to fend off D-backs

Buchholz buckles down to fend off D-backs

BOSTON -- Although Clay Buchholz didn't have his best stuff Tuesday night, he was able to stifle the Diamondbacks as the Red Sox took the opener of their three-game set at Fenway Park, 6-3, in front of 37,459.

Despite recording eight strikeouts -- matching his second-highest total of the season -- Buchholz struggled with his command, especially on the fastball. He lasted just 5 2/3 innings, his shortest outing since going five innings against the Yankees at Fenway on May 8. On Tuesday night, he gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk, as the D-backs made the right-hander work, throwing 113 pitches (73 strikes). By comparison, in his complete-game shutout on June 4 in Baltimore, he needed just 101 pitches.

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"[He had] real good stuff," manager Terry Francona said. "[His] first-pitch strikes were pretty good -- 1-1 count was actually real good. And then I thought he got into some hitters' counts after that. [He] let them get back into a lot of deep counts, which drove his pitch count up. And the way they approach [the game], they're very aggressive, take a lot of big swings, and when they put the barrel on it, it will go a long way. But you're going to get some deep counts."

Buchholz, who broke a string of six quality starts, left with a three-run lead, earning the win to improve to 9-4 with a 2.67 ERA. It didn't look like the easiest win for him this season.

"[It] didn't feel easy either," Buchholz acknowledged. "[There were] some grinding innings -- the first inning, fourth inning, 20-some odd pitches in each of them. Runners on base, runners in scoring position. It's when you sort of have to bear down and throw a couple of pitches that you need to throw in certain situations. I was lucky enough to throw a couple of good pitches in a couple of those at-bats."

Although his fastball was not as sharp Tuesday, his other pitches made up for that.

"Buchholz obviously didn't bring his best stuff, but he was able to hang in there and give us a chance to win this ballgame," said catcher Victor Martinez. "That was it. He was having trouble [commanding] his fastball, but he did a good job for us tonight.

"That shows you how good [his stuff is]. It might be his fastball, [it] might be not working tonight, but he's got his curveball, changeup and his slider. That shows you what kind of pitcher he is."

Buchholz also showed the D-backs, whom he had never faced before. Four of Buchholz's strikeouts came on changeups, three on cutters and one on a slider. Just one was on a called third strike -- Chris Young, looking at an 80-mph change to open the sixth inning.

"We put a lot of pressure on him, from the first inning on," said D-backs manager A.J. Hinch. "Really, after the fourth, we didn't do much after that. [Buchholz] settled in and made pitches. He lasted long enough to hand the game to the bullpen, and they completely shut us down. We had the one opportunity against [Hideki] Okajima in the sixth, and then that was about it. They did a nice job of adjusting as the game went along and shut us down."

Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon combined to go 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit (by Okajima) and no walks with two strikeouts.

Ian Kennedy took the loss, falling to 3-4. He went six innings, giving up six runs on nine hits, a walk, two wild pitches and a hit batter, with six strikeouts.

"I think they have a tough lineup," Hinch said of the Red Sox. "They grind you and make you earn every strike. Very rarely do they have early outs. They'll swing early, but they're usually on good pitches they want to hit. I think [Kennedy] knew that going in and was going ... I don't know if he was pitching away from the Monster or if he was trying to be fine when he was going away from these guys, because when they get their arms extended, it's pretty lethal. I don't really tie it to the actual American League as much as I do facing our opponent across the way."

The Sox were led by the resurgent Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The pair, who have struggled recently, went a combined 4-for-7 with four runs scored, three RBIs and one home run, which belonged to Ortiz, his 13th long ball of the season, and 12th off right-handed pitchers.

Pedroia had been slumping since hurting his right knee in Detroit on May 15. On Friday, he received an MRI, which revealed no damage -- news that may have alleviated some worry for the second baseman.

"[That] just makes sure that I'm OK," he said. "I got some treatment on it. I've taken some anti-inflammatories. ... I feel better. I'm getting better. I thought I was messed up there for awhile. I was having trouble walking up stairs. That kind of worried me. But my legs are like three inches. That was part of the problem. I'm getting better. I'll be fine.

"I feel better. [I'm] getting some results, which is a good thing. We've been having good at-bats. We've been playing good, so we've got to continue doing so."

Ortiz, no stranger to criticism, admonished against writing Pedroia off.

"I told you guys before that's the last guy you got to worry about hitting is Pedroia," Ortiz said. "I know it's coming, the laser show."

As for his own production?

"See the ball and hit," he said. "Keep it simple."

Despite three D-backs striking out in the first inning, Arizona found its way onto the scoreboard first. Stephen Drew hit a one-out single, stole second and scored on Adam LaRoche's single to center field.

Boston came back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Pedroia, who was hit by a pitch from Kennedy, scored on Ortiz's home run into the bleacher seats behind the Red Sox's bullpen

The Sox extended their lead in the third. Mike Cameron led off the inning with a single to left and took second on a wild pitch. After Daniel Nava walked, Pedroia doubled down the left-field line to score Cameron. Nava would score on Kennedy's second wild pitch of the frame, and Martinez legged out an infield single to score Pedroia and make it 5-1.

"It's a good way to play," Francona said of the early lead. "David takes a real good swing, gets us on the board and then we added on. When your pitcher's holding them down every time you score after that, it's a good way to play."

The D-backs closed the gap with two runs in the next inning, as Justin Upton's double to left scored Miguel Montero and Young.

The Sox added another run in the fifth, when Kevin Youkilis' double off the Green Monster in left scored Pedroia, who had singled to right and took third on Ortiz's groundout.

With the win, the Sox improved to 5-2 in Interleague Play this season, and they have won 11 of their past 15 Interleague games since June 20, 2009.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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