Buchholz hoping to buck losing trend

Buchholz hoping to buck trend

TORONTO -- Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz has come out on the wrong end of his past two decisions, but it's difficult to pin the loss on his pitching, given that he allowed only two runs in each outing.

The Red Sox did not score a run in either off Buchholz's previous two starts, falling 5-0 to New York and 2-0 to Detroit. The young right-hander drew tough assignments with CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander -- aces of their respective staffs -- on the opposing mound.

Buchholz will face another tough opponent on Wednesday, when the Blue Jays send Roy Halladay -- who is in the running for another Cy Young Award this year -- out against Boston's heavy-hitting lineup.

Since runs will likely be hard to come by for the Sox, it bodes well for Boston that Buchholz -- who began the season pitching for Triple-A Pawtucket before being called up on July 17 -- is coming off his two best outings in what has been an up-and-down year for the 25-year-old pitcher.

"It's been commanding the fastball a little bit better," Buchholz said, explaining his success in his past two outings. "Being able to throw to both sides of the plate and sink the ball in a little bit more effectively, being able to throw changeups and sliders and breaking balls when I'm behind in the count rather than just having to throw fastballs and changeups.

"Even in Pawtucket, I was trying to do too much with different pitches -- behind in the count I was trying to guide pitches into the zone and make them strikes instead of just throwing them to spots and hopefully getting some contact out of it. I've done a better job of throwing fastballs to the corners."

In his previous start, Buchholz induced 14 ground balls -- the highest total of his Major League career, including the no-hitter he threw in his second career start in 2007.

For Buchholz, that's a good sign.

"There have been some hard-hit balls, but most of them have been on the ground," he said. "It makes it better to pitch whenever you've got a couple of at-bats in the order that are three- or four-pitch at-bats and getting ground-ball outs out of them, rather than going six, seven pitches and getting a strikeout.

"I tried to do that a little bit more. I'm getting more ground balls now than I ever have in my professional career, so it's working out for me."

On Wednesday, Buchholz will face another ground-ball artist in Halladay, who makes a habit of pitching to contact and keeping his pitch count down -- the Jays veteran leads the American League in ground balls and ranks second in innings pitched, despite missing time with a strained groin.

Despite facing one of the best pitchers in the game -- yet again -- Buchholz said he wasn't worried about whether or not Boston's bats would show up in full force on Wednesday.

"This is a really good hitting team. You've seen splashes of it here and there," he said. "It's all about putting everything together -- getting out there and throwing strikes and getting outs, and then having your team on their toes on defense.

"The quicker you get them back in [the dugout], I think the better chance they have of scoring a lot of runs and getting some key hits. They've faced two really good pitchers the last two times I've been out. It's hard to put some big innings together against guys like that, but I have all the confidence in the world in everybody on this team to hit whenever they need to hit and make it all come together."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Clay Buchholz (1-3, 4.45 ERA)
Buchholz was a tough-luck loser for the second time in as many starts last Thursday, allowing one earned run over a season-high seven innings against the Tigers at Fenway Park. He fared well against Toronto in his first start of the season back on July 17 at Rogers Centre, limiting the Blue Jays to one run on four hits over 5 2/3 frames.

TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (13-5, 2.65 ERA)
Halladay fashioned a typically dominating performance on Friday night, holding the Rays to one earned run over eight innings for his second successive win. It marked the Major League-leading 21st time in 23 starts this season that Doc has logged at least seven frames. The two exceptions bookended a stint on the disabled list earlier this season. Over his past two starts, Halladay has gone 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA. In his previous eight trips up the hill, Doc had gone just 1-4 with a 3.16 ERA. In his lone start against Boston this year, Halladay turned in a complete-game victory on July 19.

Tidbits
Pitching coach John Farrell was not in Toronto for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays, as he left the team to deal with a family issue. "He's dealing with a very serious family matter, and we're hopeful that he'll come back tomorrow, but we don't know that," manager Terry Francona said after the game. ... Catcher Jason Varitek was originally in the lineup on Tuesday, but was a late scratch due to a stiff neck. ... Left fielder Jason Bay hit his 26th home run of the season in the fifth inning on Tuesday -- his sixth homer in his past 10 games. He is hitting .341 with 10 RBIs over his past 12 contests. ... Right-hander Josh Beckett had a 15-inning road scoreless streak snapped in the second inning of Tuesday's game.

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Up next
• Thursday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 9-7, 3.71) at Blue Jays (Brett Cecil, 5-1, 4.35), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Brad Penny, 7-7, 5.22) vs. Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 9-6, 4.09), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Junichi Tazawa, 1-2, 5.40) vs. Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 10-6, 3.69), 4:10 p.m. ET

Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.