The Red Sox began a three game series against the Rays in Tampa on Tuesday evening in the best possible fashion.
Not only did they pick up a victory against their closest AL-East rivals, extending their lead to 8.5 games in the process, but they also had their star pitcher, Clay Buchholz, back on the mound for his first major league start since June.
Buchholz pitched into the 5th inning, with a total of 74 pitches, 44 of which were strikes, giving up only 3 hits and zero runs, striking out six in the process as he helped the Sox to a 2-0 victory.
Buchholz now moves to 10-0 on the season and lowers his ERA to 1.61. This is fantastic news for the entire Red Sox organisation. To have a pitcher as good as Buchholz return to the rotation as the club makes its final push for the postseason is not something to be underestimated.
Before picking up his injury, Clay had looked almost unhittable; he had a 9-0 win to loss ratio and had an Earned Run Average of only 1.71, making him one of the top pitchers in baseball.
Speaking after the game to the Boston Globe, Buchholz was understandably delighted to be back out on the field.
“I just want to build up now and maybe after next time I won’t have to worry about pitch counts. I just want to help this team in October. It’s been fun to watch them even though it’s been frustrating not to participate," he said.
"I’ve had to be patient and now I’m able to get out there. I just want to do my part.”
Should Buchholz manage to get himself back to his sparkling best, the Red Sox will have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. John Lackey has been hugely impressive throughout the year, although he has not always received adequate run support from his team.
Jon Lester got through a spell of bad form to return to the top of his game and Jake Peavy, who was traded from the White Sox, has also looked impressive since joining Boston.
These signs would seem to show that the Red Sox could be serious contenders to appear in the World Series this year, the offence has remained consistent and pitching has been excellent.
The Red Sox have even managed to pull off a masterstroke by moving Koji Uehara to the closer position. Uehara has now struck out 31 consecutive batters without giving up a hit. All the pieces are coming together nicely in Boston.
That's a fact proven by the second victory against Tampa last night, with the Red Sox moving to 89-58 and cruising towards the play-offs.