By Christopher Smith
---- — BOSTON — Clay Buchholz has matured a great deal since throwing a no-hitter as a rookie Sept. 1, 2007 in his second big league start.
Six years later with an improved repertoire (added two-seamer and cutter) and a much improved mindset, the Red Sox right-hander nearly threw another no-no.
He came within six outs, but Tampa No. 8 hitter Kelly Johnson, who led off the eighth inning and was 0 for 9 against Buchholz in his career entering the at-bat, flared a broken bat single to right field.
Still, Buchholz improved to 3-0 on the young season yesterday. He went 8.0 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and walking four. He also struck out a career-high 11 batters to lead Boston 5-0 over the Rays.
Buchholz lowered his ERA to 0.41. He has allowed just one earned run in 22.0 innings. He is the first Red Sox starter to hold opponents to one run or fewer over at least 7.0 innings in each of his first three outings of a season since Pedro Martinez’s first three games as a member of the Red Sox in 1998.
Buchholz had four pitches (change-up, fastball, curveball, cutter) all working for strikes.
“I (could) throw fastball to both sides of the plate, cutter both sides of the plate and curveball both sides of the plate for most of the day,” Buchholz said. “It’s fun to go out there and pitch when you have all your pitches working. It doesn’t happen every day. Probably five times a season it happens for a starting pitcher.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell added that Buchholz struck out batters on all four pitches.
“Pretty much for the first 11 games our starters have done an excellent job,” Farrell said.
Ryan Dempster starts for the Red Sox today at 11:05 a.m. Boston starters have a 2.07 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65.1 innings so far this year.
Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb lived the first two years of his life in North Reading.
As noted about the righty in The Eagle-Tribune last year, his mother Lindsay Miller-Cobb died at 49 of a stroke and his brother R.J. is a member of the U.S. Army and a Purple Heart recipient. He recovered after a piece of shrapnel had lodged in his hand when a Humvee he was in was blown up in Iraq in 2008.
Cobb yesterday went 6.2 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk while striking out six.
Odds And Ends
David Ortiz (Achilles) was supposed to take four at-bats in a rehab assignment with Pawtucket yesterday, but he did not play because of illness. ... The Red Sox improved to 7-4. ... Daniel Nava reached base twice (walk, HBP) and has reached base in 18 consecutive starts dating back to last September. ... Dustin Pedroia has a season-high three hits. It was his fifth multi-hit game of the season.