BOSTON Perhaps it was the pregame hoopla, or pitching in front of so many former Red Sox players. Or maybe it was the Yankees lineup, which entered the game hitting .276, second in the American League, third in home runs. Or maybe as manager Bobby Valentine said, Clay Buchholz is still building after spending most of last season on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Whatever the reason, it was clear almost from his first pitch a fastball that was up in the zone - that Buchholz was going to struggle Friday afternoon. Buchholz went six innings (plus one batter in the seventh), giving up six runs, five earned, on nine this and two walks with two strikeouts. He suffered his first loss of the season, dropping his record to 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA, as the Sox fell to the Yankees, 6-2, on Fenway Parks 100th anniversary.
He left some balls over the plate. Obviously they got hit, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The wind 19 mph out to center at the start of the game was blowing good. So nothing to take away from those guys but he made some pitches. It was just one of those days.
For Buchholz, it was one of those days hed like a mulligan.
Five of the hits he allowed were solo home runs. The home runs allowed matched a career high (to the Blue Jays on Sept. 29, 2009) and also matched Josh Becketts April 7 outing in Detroit for most homers allowed by a Sox pitcher this season.
Nick Swisher led off the second inning with a home run to left-center. Two batters later, with one out, Eric Chavez hit another, and led off the fourth with his second home run of the game. Alex Rodriquez led off the fifth with a first-pitch home run over the Monster. And Russell Martin hit the Yankees fifth homer of the game with two outs in the sixth.
Buchholz seemed to struggle with all his pitches.
Too many pitches left up in the zone, said one scout in attendance. He had trouble getting over his front side. He left changeups and cutters up and out over the plate. His curveballs were just rolling.
All the home runs except Rodriguezs came in two-strike counts. Two of the home runs Swishers and Martins were on fastballs, Chavezs were on a changeup and a cutter, and Rodriguezs was also on a cutter.
Against a lot of the hitters he was a very competitive and then those home runs out of the windup, no one on, it seemed, they were perplexing, Valentine said. He had a good curveball. His fastball was located down nicely a lot of the time but at least four of the times fastball wasnt located properly. Hes still building. This is a guy who, he didnt pitch all last year and hes still getting his feet underneath him.
I think itll come quickly. It seems its only eight inches or so that he needs to get the ball down a little better but I havent seen it on film and I didnt talk to catcher or pitching coaches about what they were seeing.
Buchholz extended a dubious streak, giving up four or more runs in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. He also ended his career-high 11-game undefeated streak.
Buchholz, though, said he feels 100 percent healthy and does not believe his issues were mechanical.
Its really simple, he said. I made five mistakes today and they hit them.
Anybody can say that any pitch is the wrong pitch to throw if they hit it, but I believe that a couple of changeups that they hit, a couple of cutters they hit and a couple of curveballs, if they werent middle or werent thigh-high they might have still hit them but it might not have been a homer. I think Salty did a good job of calling the pitches. I have to get out there and execute.