Clay Buchholz delivered his third straight quality start on Saturday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Why you should have cared about Saturday's Red Sox game: The return of Clay Buchholz, the arrival of Edward Mujica

September 06, 2014 - 7:49 pm
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(For the final month of the regular season, "Closing Time" will be called "Why You Should Have Cared," looking beyond the final score -- at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) -- for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.) Given the unsettled state of the Red Sox rotation, a case can be made that no player's performance down the stretch is more important to the team than that of Clay Buchholz. And so, it is significant that finally, Buchholz looks like a pitcher who has turned a corner on a year of misery. On Saturday night, Buchholz sailed efficiently and effectively through the Blue Jays lineup. In 6 1/3 innings, he permitted just two runs (one of which scored after he left the game) on four hits while walking two and striking out five. The outing marked the third straight quality start for the right-hander, the first time this year that the 30-year-old has bunched three such performances together. In the last month, he's made six starts, logging at least six innings in all of them and permitting three or fewer runs five times. He has walked two or fewer batters in all of them, with 37 strikeouts and 10 walks spanning 44 2/3 innings. It is the look of a pitcher who gives the Sox at least one relatively reliable option heading into 2015, a significant consideration as the team tries to decide who to target in the winter. OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT THE RED SOX GAME -- Edward Mujica recorded his first save since assuming the closer's role from Koji Uehara, recording a pair of outs (sandwiched around a walk to Jose Bautista). -- Will Middlebrooks had a host of quality at-bats against left-hander J.A. Happ, pulling an RBI single to left, negotiating a walk and then hammering a ball to the warning track in right field, where Jose Bautista robbed him of an extra-base hit (perhaps a homer) with a leaping catch on the warning track. He also had a hard grounder up the middle on a 99 mph fastball from reliever Brandon Morrow, but was denied a hit by a well-positioned Toronto second baseman.Middlebrooks has a great deal at stake this month as he looks to earn the team's trust for a role on its 2015 big league roster. -- Though he went 0-for-4, Xander Bogaerts showed range to both his left and right and had one of his better double-play pivots, standing in with Edwin Encarnacion bearing down on him to make a strong throw that beat Adam Lind at first base. Over the last couple of weeks, Bogaerts has looked like he's successfully recalibrated his clock at shortstop to convert plays with greater efficiency and fluidity. -- Mookie Betts demolished a full-count fastball leading off the game for his first career triple. However, he went on to strike out a pair of times in his 1-for-4 day, giving him three multi-strikeout games in the big leagues, including two in his last four contests. As opposing teams zero in more on Betts, his strikeout rate will be an interesting gauge of his ability to keep pace with the adjustments that other teams are making against him. -- Left-hander Drake Britton pitched for the second consecutive day for the first time in 2014. He followed his two-up, two-down effort on Friday with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in which he gave up a hit and a walk while striking out a batter. Britton, who will be out of options next year, has a chance to use this month to make his case to remain on the 40-man roster after struggling for most of the year in Pawtucket.
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