Even before Buchholz gave a kick and yell after his final pitch, a three-run homer to former teammate Josh Reddick, the right-hander's performance left questions. The bullpen looked shaky at first, too, but fortunately for Boston, Oakland's five-run seventh inning did not make for impending disaster.
"I'm probably the only pitcher in baseball that's complaining about winning games," said Buchholz, who had allowed just one run until the last five pitches of the 99 he threw. "There are a lot of guys throwing well that are getting losses under their name. You've got to take it for what it's worth right now. I'm giving up too many runs, but the team's scoring enough to get us through it."
Boston had an 11-1 lead going to the sixth thanks to an offense that's been perhaps baseball's best over the past week, and a designated hitter, David Ortiz, who finished a brilliant first month in requisite fashion. Ortiz homered twice for the 36th multihomer game in his time with Boston, putting him one off Ted Williams' franchise record, leading the Sox to their seventh win in eight games and a .500 record at 11-11.
"David's a star of stars right now," manager Bobby Valentine said. "His swing is as good as I think it can get."
Ortiz is hitting an American League-leading .405 on the season.. He was just one part of a Red Sox offense that's reached double-digit runs a Major League-high seven times this season.
Darnell McDonald hit his second homer of the year and second in as many starts with a left-hander, Tommy Milone, starting for Oakland. Both of Oritz's homers also came off Milone, who does not throw hard and lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Mike Aviles, who had four RBIs, homered off another southpaw, Jordan Norberto.
"I think everybody was up there having good at-bats," said Aviles, who has five homers on the season, halfway to his career high. "I think that's the key, not necessarily, the hitting -- just to have good at-bats, because it wears down the pitcher a little and forces them to make some pitches and sometimes they make mistakes. We've been fortunate enough to capitalize on those mistakes."
The A's (11-13) have lost three straight and could be considered a foil for the Sox for how punchless they've been. No team in Oakland franchise history has scored fewer runs through 24 games, and that's after plating more runs in the seventh than they had in a single inning this season.
What the seventh inning was for the Red Sox, then, was either a representation of the law of averages or a condemnation of how they pitched. Buchholz (3-1, 8.69 ERA) remains inconsistent five starts into the season, if not worrisome. He finished with six runs allowed on seven hits, five walks and five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. On a positive note, his changeup resurfaced, and he threw about a dozen.
"Knowing the pitch I threw was a good pitch that got hit for a home run, it happens," Buchholz said of his angry reaction after Reddick's homer cut the lead to 11-6. "But giving up one run in the second and going into the seventh and giving up five, it's not a really a good feeling."
Buchholz has allowed about two baserunners per inning this season.
"I'm sure that [pitching coach] Bob McClure and I will put our heads together and try to get a good answer as to what's causing it," Valentine said. "They're not big hits, but the walks are concerning. Five walks is a lot in seven innings."
Vicente Padilla bailed out Junichi Tazawa once Buchholz left in the seventh. A double play that Dustin Pedroia started by taking it to the bag himself saved any runs from scoring in the eighth, before Alfredo Aceves pitched a scoreless ninth in a none-save situation.
Down, 1-0, Boston scored four in the bottom of the second, the first on an Ortiz homer to right. McDonald made it 6-1 in the third by crushing a two-run homer off the Green Monster light tower in left-center field.
Ortiz's next homer, the first run of a five-run fifth inning, was playable in right for Reddick. The ball bounced off his glove and landed in Boston's bullpen, which Reddick himself fell into thanks to momentum.
"We had momentum on our side, and after the bullpen came in and shut them down for a few innings, we quickly turned it around," Reddick said. "It just wasn't enough. We gave up too much too early, and maybe if I catch that ball we don't give up five runs that inning and it's a whole different ballgame."