Buchholz continues to deal like an ace

Righty falls one strike away from complete-game shutout

Buchholz continues to deal like an ace

BOSTON -- For Clay Buchholz, things couldn't be any better right now. He is firing gem after gem and doing it with a catcher in Sandy Leon that he works in perfect harmony with. His body, which has betrayed him in years past, has never felt stronger.

The righty was one strike away from a shutout against the Astros on Saturday, the one run he allowed in a 6-1 victory didn't diminish the performance.

It was a masterpiece -- and the first complete game by a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway Park on the Fourth of July since Mike Torrez in 1979.

There were no fireworks from the Astros against Buchholz on Saturday. Instead, just 27 outs spread over 110 pitches -- 80 of which were strikes.

Farrell on Buchholz's outing

"He's been on a run the last 10 starts where he's been in control," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That was the case again today for the full nine innings -- a number of pitches with men on base that he was able to execute. He's in such a good place mentally where he's repeating his delivery. He's commanding four pitches for strikes, and in control today."

Remember how good Buchholz was those first 10 weeks of 2013? That is essentially how he has looked of late, lowering his ERA from 6.03 to 3.27 in a span of 11 starts.

"Very similar," Farrell said of the 2013 comparison. "Any time you're talking about a guy who is going to go seven, eight innings pretty much each time out with low runs allowed, it's a very similar run."

The Red Sox need an ace, and Buchholz is certainly pitching like one. Now, he hopes he can make it last without any of the obstacles (health, inconsistency) that have plagued him in the past.

In his last four starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA.

"I've felt like I've had some pretty good stuff. I've been able to change speeds on a pitch to pitch basis," said Buchholz. "I feel good. I'm prepared to pitch nine innings every time I go out. Sometimes it just doesn't happen. But as far as staying healthy and how my body feels probably, I'm probably in the best shape of my life."

As for his rapport with Leon, consider that Buchholz is 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA with the batterymate he just met at the end of Spring Training.

"It happened first start [with Leon] in Spring Training," said Buchholz. "He started calling pitches I normally don't throw but I was trying to work on, and I didn't have to shake off to get to them, so that's where it started."

The tandem just missed the shutout in this one, but instead settled for Buchholz's first complete game of the season, and ninth of his career.

"If I'm out there, I might as well try to get it," said Buchholz. "Just needed a strike called or a backdoor cutter. Didn't get it, but it is what it is. Complete game is a complete game. Shutouts are a little different, but it's pretty hard to do."

These days, however, Buchholz is making everything look easy.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.