Commentary

Buchholz is the bright side for Sox

Meanwhile, struggling Ortiz is pulled again for pinch-hitter Lowell

Updated: April 28, 2010, 7:49 AM ET
By Allan Ryan | Special to ESPNBoston.com

TORONTO -- "Isn't that always the way it is?"

This was Red Sox manager Terry Francona a couple of satisfying minutes after another win above the 49th parallel.

The question had been along the lines of "How can two teams roll up 25 runs one night, then struggle for three the next?" Francona even had a part two to his reply -- this bit even more time-worn than the first. Maybe you've heard him tell already, but: "It's a funny game."

Of course, for David Ortiz maybe not so much. Not during these, for him, trying times.

Clay Buchholz understood, though, and -- unlike Ortiz -- was around to provide a little elaboration.

Eight innings of a terrific seven-hitter under his belt in Boston's 2-1 win over Toronto, Buchholz was coming off back-to-back performances in which (a) he gave up no earned runs over five innings, then (b) had a career-high 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3.

On Tuesday, the Boston bullpen running on fumes, Buchholz expended a career-high 117 pitches in anchoring the team's sixth win in eight overall, fifth in seven on the road.

A confidence booster? (OK, it was an off-night for questions.)

Buchholz I made a couple of good pitches in key situations, but it's a thin line between being really good and being really bad.

-- Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz

"Of course," said Buchholz. "That's what anybody's going to tell you coming off a couple of good outings. I made a couple of good pitches in key situations, but it's a thin line between being really good and being really bad."

"That was a real gutsy performance," assured Francona. "I think it was 80 strikes [correct]. The way the other guy [Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum] was throwing, there was no room for error. He understood where we were [bullpen-wise]."

Now, where were we with regards to Big Papi? Well, he walked and scored the game-tying run in the second, bounced into a double-play, popped to center, and, in the eighth, with lefty Scott Downs on the mound, two outs, bases loaded -- got lifted for a pinch-hitter.

As had been the case on April 20 versus Texas -- the only other time Francona had ever subbed for the big guy in a meaningful situation -- Mike Lowell headed to the bat-rack. The left-right dance continued with Jays going to the righty Kevin Gregg.

As had also been the case on April 20, Lowell walked -- but this time on four pitches to deliver the 2-1 go-ahead.

"We're just trying to win games," said Francona, which is pretty much how he explained his move against the Rangers.

Back then, an eventual 7-6 win, Francona had added: "Ask me if I enjoy doing that. Of course not. He's [Ortiz] very prideful."

A couple of nights later, before the Friday opener against the Orioles, Ortiz called being hit for "embarrassing," but wasn't blaming Francona.

Ortiz was hitting .146 (6-for-41) with zero homers, two RBIs and 17 strikeouts before he was called back to the bench on April 20.

He got his first homer Friday against the O's, but is 2-for-11 since April 20 and all the way up to .154.

Sometimes, it's just not such a funny game.

While Ortiz was not around to chat afterward, before the game, to WEEI.com, Ortiz was saying that he'd like to play "two or three more years" beyond the 2010 season. "I'll be 37 or 38," he said. "Two or three more years and then I'll take it to the house."

Now in the final year of his contract (and what are the chances of the Sox picking up his $12.5 million option for 2011?), he''ll turn 35 in November.

"Time has gone fast, really fast," he said. "I never thought it would happen this fast. I talked to all those [Twins teammates] and they said, 'It goes fast, believe me.' And they were right."

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