Clay Buchholz made his second rehab start on Friday night before a sellout crowd at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. In full disclosure, many were there for the fireworks show following the game. Buchholz just happened to be pitching.
Buchholz (rehabbing from... does anyone even know what injury he suffered?) struggled in his first rehab start at Class-A Lowell. In that stint he struggled with his control, walking three hitters in only 2/3 of an inning.
Friday night he didn't walk anybody, but was eminently hittable. He gave up seven hits, but only one run, in only 3-1/3 innings. The hits weren't cheap, either. Neither were the outs. Buchholz looked frustrated on the mound, often tapping his glove on his thigh after each hit. Buchholz was on a pitch limit of 50-55 pitches and ended up with 53 (34 of them for strikes).
Boston is hoping to pencil in Buchholz for a start on September 10 in Tampa against the upstart Rays. He believes he'll be ready after one more rehab start, most likely next Wednesday for the PawSox in the playoffs.
Oh, did I mention Pawtucket is going to the playoffs?
After Buchholz was lifted from the game in the third inning, the Syracuse Chiefs were unable to get another hit for the remainder of the game. Jose De La Torre, Alex Wilson, and, especially, Anthony Ranaudo were lights out. Wilson was making his first appearance since July 8 due to a thumb injury. He struck out one in a flawless inning, while hitting 97 mph on the stadium gun.
Ranaudo, pitching in relief for the first time in his professional career, was sharp. The 6-foot-7, 23-year-old right-hander hurled four hitless innings, striking out five while walking one.
Fans who were waiting for the fireworks display following the game were getting squirmish in their seats as the game was still tied, 1-1, going to the bottom of the ninth. The last thing they wanted was an extra-innings game.
When Syracuse closer Erik Davis retired the first two hitters of the ninth, extra innings seemed inevitable. Newly acquired Red Sox Quintin Berry drew a walk which seemed harmless enough with light-hitting Justin Henry (.206 average going into the at-bat) due up at the plate. After a couple of throws over to first, Berry summoned his inner Dave Roberts and stole second base. The stage was set for Henry to be the unlikely hero. Henry accommodated by lining a single to center field, scoring Berry on a close play at the plate, and the celebration was on.
The victory clinched the International League North Division title for the Pawtucket Red Sox for the second time in three years. Tickets for all possible playoff games at McCoy Stadium will be on sale at the box office or online at the Pawtucket Red Sox website.