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Scouting Clay Buchholz: What the veteran starter adds to the Phillies

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Scouting Clay Buchholz: What the veteran starter adds to the Phillies

The Phillies shrewdly bought low on Clay Buchholz on Tuesday, absorbing his contract from the Red Sox in exchange for a low-level minor league infielder.

Now that he's slated to be in a Phillies uniform, here's a more in-depth look at Clay Buchholz and what he does and does not bring to the table for the 2017 season.

Slow poke
There were times last season where Jeremy Hellickson or other Phillies pitchers drew ire for their deliberate pace on the mound. Buchholz takes that to another level.

Since Pitch F/X era started in 2008, Buchholz is tied for last in pace with 25 seconds in between pitches. His 2011 season is one of the slowest on record.

The minor leagues have a pitch clock that forces pitchers to speed up, but there is no such feature in the major leagues and the rules on time in between pitches is rarely (read: never) enforced. Buchholz received a pace of game warning from MLB in 2015 after he stepped out of the batters box after pitches while hitting against the Phillies, but he has not received any such warning for his pitching.

That can lead to some long games with Buchholz on the mound. Whether or not his deliberate pace is beneficial by throwing off hitters is tough to determine. At the very least, after 10 years in the MLB and a fair amount of success, it's tough to expect Buchholz to change that aspect of his game.

Every other year
The 32-year-old starter has had seasons where he was a bonafide Cy Young candidate and others where he has been barely passable in the rotation. There's been very little in between.

Essentially, Buchholz has fluctuated between superb and well below average results. In 2010, he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA over 28 starts, earning an All Star appearance and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. However, he wasn't nearly as good in 2011, when his season ended early after a back injury, or 2012, when his ERA ballooned to 4.56 despite throwing a career-high 189 1/3 innings.

Buchholz returned to form in 2013, going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA that had him as a Cy Young favorite until another injury severely shortened his season. He followed that up with a 5.34 ERA in 2014. 

He also experiences great fluctuation start-to-start. In that abysmal 2014 season, he still threw two complete game shutouts while allowing six runs or more in seven starts.

What has he done lately?
Buchholz had a down year in 2016, hence his presence on the trade market. Once the Red Sox acquired southpaw Chris Sale, the righty became expendable, particularly with his $13.5 million salary. 

His first half was especially poor, bringing an ERA over 6.00 into June. He was removed from the rotation in July.

Over the final two months, Buchholz became much more effective, particularly when a rash of injuries moved him back to the rotation. In five September starts, the veteran went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA, tossing four quality starts. The trip to the bullpen may have been a turning point to getting him back on track.

Why fans should be excited
As Corey Seidman pointed out, Buchholz is a buy-low candidate with declining velocity. The Phillies gave up a lower level prospect and could get much more at the 2017 trade deadline if Buchholz looks like his 2010 or 2013 self. Even if he isn't used as trade bait, he can help bolster a Phillies rotation filled with young players and add a veteran presence.

If Buchholz stays healthy, the worst case scenario is that he ends up being a higly paid innings eater on a team with very few big money contracts, so absorbing his contract isn't much of an issue.

The righty also had a relatively large split between his home and road numbers last season, pitching poorly at hitter-friendly Fenway Park (5.60 ERA in 72 1/3 innings) while putting up league average numbers on the road (3.90 ERA in 67 innings). Citizens Bank Park isn't exactly a pitching haven, but it could be a better backdrop for Buchholz, who gave up twice as many home runs at home than on the road last year.

As a quirky side note, Buchholz is one of a few pitchers who throws righty but hits lefty. He has two hits in 15 career at-bats. 

What should worry fans
The pace of play could make some Buchholz starts unpleasant to watch, but his pitching itself has some red flags. The 32-year-old has an injury history and may be fragile despite making it through 2016 unscathed. There's reason to believe with his lower velocity and his inconsistent results that Buchholz can't find his former self, which is an inherent risk in a buy-low player.  

If Buchholz performs very well, the only downside is that would mean he wouldn't be long for the Phillies. He'd likely be traded in the offseason or pursue a multi-year deal next offseason.

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).