Buchholz’ Return Solidifies Red Sox as World Series Contender
As the Red Sox quickly approach their first division title since their 2007 championship season, it appears more and more apparent that Boston is not only a strong candidate to reign supreme in the AL East, but to contend as a perennial World Series favorite.
While Boston has been atop the American League East for the majority of the 2013 campaign, many fans and critics, alike, have deliberated in regards to how the Red Sox can be formidable adversaries to Major League Baseball’s premier franchises this October.
Needless to say, nobody is questioning just how remarkable the ballclub is following Clay Buchholz’ stellar return in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
In the middle game of the final series of the season against the Tampa Bay, Buchholz graced the hill and pitched his first game since June 8th, throwing five scoreless innings against David Price and the Rays.
Set to a 70-80 pitch limit by manager John Farrell Buchholz wound up throwing 74 pitches, allowing only three singles, a walk, while striking out six batters.
Although it was only one outing, it is unmistakable that Buchholz’ extended time off has not only been warranted, but something that will pay off significantly in time for the Fall Classic. Performing at the elite level he did earlier in the year, the 29-year-old provides the squad with an ace-caliber pitcher that solidifies the starting rotation.
Prior to his lengthy absence from the mound, Buchholz sported a 9-0 record with a 1.71 earned run average. The undefeated phenom only trails Jon Lester for most wins on the team (14) and continues to sport a mightily impressive ERA, which now stands at 1.61.
Upon return, all remaining questions concerning how far the Red Sox can go in the postseason have been undeniably answered.
Though there hasn’t been much doubt in regards to Boston’s offensive capabilities, there has been much criticism regarding the lack of an ace for the playoff rotation.
As American League opponents such as the Tampa Bay Rays (David Price) and the Detroit Tigers (Max Scherzer) enjoy a bona fide number one arm that is reliable enough to pitch multiple games in a series, the Red Sox have lacked such in recent years.
Despite above average performances for John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Jake Peavy, none of the three men listed instill fear in opposing hitters the way someone like Felix Hernandez does. While the players above have competitive attitudes and stability that will make them (primarily Peavy and Lackey) reliable assets throughout October, none of them are premier starters.
With his return, Buchholz joins the white hot, Jon Lester as the two candidates to start the first game of the ALDS against the winner of the single elimination Wild Card game.
Since the All Star break, Lester has a 5-2 record in 10 starts, sp
orting a 2.53 ERA, and retiring 57 batters by way of the K. Quickly recuperating from initial struggles, Lester has re-established himself to the “Nation” that he is still a dependable workhorse in pressure situations.
Who starts the first game of the playoffs is up in the air, but it does not necessarily matter when your two options are debatably the hottest pitchers in the game right now. Unlike
previous circumstances, the starting depth is remarkable, which will assist John Farrell and company in reaping the rewards of such depth in the postseason.
Assuming Buchholz and Lester remain dominant in the final stretch of the season, it is undeniable that their entire rotation can compete with the best the league has to offer.
Brace yourselves, Red Sox Nation, as the 2013 campaign is no longer a matter of simply being satisfied with a playoff appearance. Making doubters into believers, the Local 9 now possess everything necessary to claim their third
World Series title in the last decade.
Holding an endless wealth of pitching, a consistently productive lineup, and an uplifting spirit reminiscent of the 2003-2004 teams, it is time to believe that the Red Sox are now the team to beat in the American League.
Time to “Cowboy Up” for a wild postseason ride.