Boston starter Clay Buchholz, the franchise's top pitching prospect and the Minor League leader in strikeouts, applied the brakes through six innings of effective damage control, allowing four runs, three of them earned, on eight hits and three walks. He ended three separate innings with one of his five strikeouts, and ended two innings with double plays.
"I thought he kept his poise real well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "The game didn't quicken up."
In the estimation of catcher Jason Varitek, who made a surprise appearance behind the plate after Doug Mirabelli pulled up lame with a strained calf rounding third base, Buchholz did more than just scramble back from trouble.
"He had an outstanding outing," said Varitek, who in catching Buchholz for the first time told reporters there is "no question" the 23-year-old from Texas has Major League-caliber skills. "He kept his poise with the lead, and he threw strikes -- didn't really walk people. He had a good changeup -- you've seen his curveball -- and I found out later he had a pretty good sinker, too."
Buchholz was wild early. He threw six straight balls to start the game, but then induced Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera to pop out. Vladimir Guerrero followed with a hot shot to right, which J.D. Drew dropped for an error. Buchholz escaped the inning by allowing only one unearned run and striking out Gary Matthews Jr. swinging. He continued to pitch effectively with runners on base until Los Angeles touched him for three runs over the fifth and sixth.
Angels ace John Lackey, meanwhile, did not bring his best stuff to Fenway Park. The 15-game winner and Cy Young Award candidate gave up 11 hits -- a season high -- and seven runs in four innings, his shortest outing of the year. He gave up six extra-base hits, including David Ortiz's 20th home run, during a six-run, 46-pitch first inning.
By the end of the fifth, every Red Sox starter had collected a hit.
In the end, that was enough support for Buchholz. After an uneven first two innings, Buchholz got out the jitters.
"There were a lot of them," he said. "I felt like I was doing everything wrong. Then the second inning passed. And then from the third inning and fourth inning on, I felt good out there."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.