The Red Sox will play the second game of their road series against the Pirates on Wednesday, sending out Clay Buchholz against veteran Francisco Liriano.
In another good outing last Thursday, a rejuvenated Buchholz (8-8, 5.19 ERA) pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Royals. He notched seven strikeouts in the winning effort, his third consecutive victory.
Manager John Farrell was most impressed by the right-hander’s location on his pitches throughout the start in Kansas City.
“As we’ve seen over the last four starts, he’s been very efficient, he’s had multiple pitches,” Farrell said. “I thought he had a great changeup to go along with a well-located fastball tonight, and he continues to pitch very effectively, very consistent.”
Last week’s start is just one of the many quality outings Buchholz has put together in latter part of the season. Over his previous four starts, he’s allowed no more than three runs or six hits in one outing. On Aug. 31, he threw a complete game against the Rays, one start after he pitched 8 1/3 innings vs. the Blue Jays.
So far through September, Buchholz has a 2.84 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in two starts. Before the All-Star Game, the 30-year-old’s ERA was near six. Since then, it’s under five, thanks in part to his recent success.
Unlike his starts at Fenway Park, Buchholz has pitched well away from Boston. In 13 starts, he’s compiled a 3.96 ERA and a 5-3 record. Opposing hitters have a .241 batting average against him on the road compared to a .309 mark at home. Against National League opponents this season, though, Buchholz has only managed to pitch 13.2 innings combined over three starts, allowing 13 runs.
Buchholz has yet to face the Pirates in his career. However, catcher Russell Martin has been a thorn in the right-hander’s side with four home runs in 12 career plate appearances.
Liriano (5-10, 3.53 ERA) has resurrected his career over the last two years since moving to the Pirates. The left-hander formed an almost-unhittable duo with veteran Johan Santana in 2006 with the Twins. But an elbow injury and Tommy John Surgery derailed his career in the American League. Despite a strong 2010 season, Liriano posted ERAs over five in both 2011 and 2012. Since joining Pittsburgh in 2013, however, the 31-year-old is back to his old form.
After a career-best 16 wins last season, Liriano hasn’t put up the same win totals, though he has pitched nearly as well. Last Thursday against the Phillies, Liriano tossed eight scoreless innings, which included a season-high 12 strikeouts.
“I felt great,” Liriano said after his last start. “I had pretty good command, I was getting ahead in the count and I had pretty good location with every pitch.”
The start against the Phillies followed a game in which Liriano struck out nine over six scoreless frames against the Cubs on Sept. 6.
At PNC Park this season Liriano hasn’t had his best stuff, allowing 39 earned runs over 76 2/3 innings. While his WHIP is a solid 1.09 on the road, it’s 1.45 at home. He hasn’t fared well against American League opponents this season either, as he has a 7.36 ERA in three starts against teams in the senior circuit. In five career starts against the Red Sox, he has a 1-3 record with a 7.01 ERA.
Jemile Weeks has done the most damage of any Red Sox against Liriano, collecting four hits in 12 at-bats.
Red Sox vs. Liriano (LHP)
Allen Craig (16 career plate appearances): .143 average/.188 OBP/.357 SLG, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Jemile Weeks (12): .333/.333/.417, 2 strikeouts, 1 double
Yoenis Cespedes (8): .143/.250/.143, 1 strikeout
Mike Napoli (6): .167/.167/.667, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 3 strikeouts
David Ortiz (6): .200/.333/.400, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
David Ross (3): .000/.000/.000
Pirates vs. Buchholz (RHP)
Travis Snider (18): .059/.111/.059, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Russell Martin (12): .333/.333/1.333, 4 home runs, 7 RBIs, 1 strikeout
Gaby Sanchez (6): .000/.000/.000, 3 strikeouts
Chris Stewart (4): .000/.250/.000
Brent Morel (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 RBI