ST. LOUIS -- Clay Buchholz won't be at his best when he takes the mound on Sunday night for Game 4 of the World Series. His right shoulder is barking again, enough that Red Sox manager John Farrell felt it necessary to place Buchholz in a rotation spot that assures he'll only start once in this World Series.
"My one thing that I have is to go and compete, go out there for as long as John wants to leave me out there and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability," Buchholz said. "Obviously, given the couple of days that I've been out so far, [I'm] not 100 percent. But I've said it a couple of times this year -- I don't think anybody, especially at this time of the season, is 100 percent."
Prior to facing Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn on Sunday -- air time is 8 p.m. ET on FOX, with first pitch at 8:15 p.m. -- Buchholz threw a longer-than-usual touch-and-feel bullpen session on Saturday afternoon. "Overall," he said, "everything went good," with just "a little bit of rust" to work through.
The Red Sox need him more than ever. On Saturday night, they suffered a walk-off loss because of an obstruction call made on third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who lunged at a wide throw by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and tripped Allen Craig while the Cardinal was making his way home. Boston trails in the best-of-seven Series two games to one.
Saltalamacchia said he's "more than confident" Buchholz can come through.
"I'm more than confident in all our pitchers," Saltalamacchia said. "Tonight was tremendous. The guys went out there and did their job, made their pitches, just really kept us in that game and gave us a chance to win that."
Buchholz made his Major League debut in 2007 and was left off the playoff roster when the Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year. On Sunday, his first start against the Cardinals will coincide with his first appearance in the Fall Classic, "and I think that just the environment, the crowd, the adrenaline -- that's going to help me out, too," Buchholz said.
"We go into tomorrow thinking that he's going to give us what he's been in the postseason," Farrell added. "That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we've seen back in April and May, but he's also been very effective. And we're fully anticipating that to be the case tomorrow."
Loves to face: Jonny Gomes, 0-for-2, K Hates to face: Quintin Berry, 1-for-3, RBI
Why he'll win: Buchholz is coming off his best outing of the postseason his last time out, limiting Detroit to two runs on four hits and two walks in Game 6 of the ALCS.
Why he'll win: Lynn was effective at home this season, posting a 9-3 record and a 2.82 ERA, and will be well rested, pitching on 11 days' rest.
Pitcher beware: In the regular season, the Cardinals' offense was often at its best with Lynn on the mound. The right-hander led the National League in run support at 5.2 runs per game.
Pitcher beware: Lynn hasn't pitched deeper than 6 1/3 innings since Aug. 25, and the Red Sox have been effective early, scoring 39 percent of their runs in the first three frames this season.
Bottom line: Buchholz has allowed three or more runs in four of his seven starts since coming off the disabled list. Shoulder fatigue pushed his World Series start back to Game 4, and the Red Sox hope he can return to his early season form when he started the year 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Bottom line: After a shaky July and August, Lynn sealed his place in the playoff rotation by posting a 1.09 ERA over his last four starts. Though he has two wins this October, Lynn has given up seven earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, which may have him on a short leash as fellow 15-game winner Shelby Miller waits in the bullpen.
Buchholz missed three months this season with a right shoulder strain he and the Red Sox say is unrelated. He posted a 1.88 ERA in four regular-season starts after coming off the disabled list, but he has evidently hit a wall in October.
In 16 2/3 postseason innings, Buchholz has a 5.40 ERA, having gone no longer than six innings in any of his three starts and falling short of six frames in his last two. He has come out sharp, started to get out of sync in the middle innings and struggled late, as evidenced by the .529 batting average opposing hitters have posted the third time around this month.
Prior to last Saturday's American League Championship Series Game 6 against the Tigers, Buchholz said he "felt as good as I have all season" in the bullpen. But tightness crept in around the second inning, and though Buchholz pitched well -- giving up two runs over five-plus innings in a game that clinched the AL pennant -- he was pulled after just 85 pitches and was leapfrogged by Jake Peavy for Saturday's Game 3, lining Peavy up to pitch a potential Game 7.
Farrell, however, has maintained all along that Buchholz is healthy enough to pitch, with Buchholz chalking up the issue to a "dead arm."
"There's not a whole lot of discomfort," Buchholz said. "The ball is not really coming out of my hands like it does in Spring Training or at the beginning of the season. I think that's true for the majority of the guys that have been pitching all year, and it's something that I've had to deal with over the last 3 1/2 months. I'm still in the same shoes, from that standpoint."
Buchholz took some anti-inflammatory drugs -- though not the strong kind that landed him in the hospital with internal bleeding last summer -- and he said he'll be honest with Farrell and the Red Sox medical staff if he feels unusual discomfort on Sunday, giving Ryan Dempster or Felix Doubront a chance to provide some length out of the bullpen.
But the 29-year-old right-hander is confident that won't be necessary.
"Giving the team a chance to win, that's my goal," Buchholz said. "And to trust your pitches and to throw them to the best of your ability, that's what I've worked up to up to this point, and that's where I'm at."