"I thought Clay was absolutely fantastic," said manager Bobby Valentine. "[He's] just throwing the ball as well as we've seen him throw the ball all year. He's really on a roll and his changeup was outstanding. His curveball was real good. He went to the cutter to complement his fastball in the middle of the game. Great job."
Buchholz went seven innings, allowing five hits and a run. He walked two and notched a season-high nine strikeouts.
This was the fourth straight start -- and fifth time in the last six outings -- that Buchholz (7-2, 5.39 ERA) has allowed two runs or less.
"The ball's rolling right [now]," Buchholz said. "I gave up a lot of infield hits, balls that just got past an infielder early [in April and part of May]. That's what was really going good for me in 2010, whenever I was getting all the double plays and everything. A little bit of confidence helps."
It isn't very often you can say that navigating out of a first-inning jam was the key to the game, but that might well have been the case in this one.
Just like Josh Beckett one night earlier, Buchholz opened the first by giving up a leadoff triple to the dynamic Jose Reyes. But unlike Beckett, who surrendered three runs in that opening frame, Buchholz buckled down and struck out the next three batters.
"When you get in that position, you're just trying to get out of that inning giving up that one run," Buchholz said. "That's got to be a pretty high percentage that the run scores every time. I was just trying to keep the ball on the infield and get some weak contact. I was fortunate enough to get to two strikes on all the guys and able to punch them out."
Buchholz and Marlins lefty Mark Buehrle didn't give an inch over the first six innings, pitching to a scoreless standoff.
The Red Sox (30-32) finally broke through in the seventh. Will Middlebrooks ignited it with a one-out single to right. The biggest hit was delivered by Kelly Shoppach, who laced an RBI double to left-center in which Middlebrooks roared all the way around from first.
Shoppach, who had a 2-for-4 night, is now 7-for-16 with three homers and eight RBIs lifetime against Buehrle.
"He's just one of those guys. There's certain guys in the league that get me and certain guys that don't," Buehrle said. "He's just one of those guys that hits pretty well off me."
"I don't know why, but for some reason I see him well," Shoppach said. "I don't let panic set in. You can't let him rush you. You have to make sure to slow him down, because he's going to pound the strike zone. Understanding that, it's just about getting a pitch to hit."
Mike Aviles stepped up next and hit a foul pop that was nearly caught by catcher John Buck, but the ball hit a wire and bounced off Buck's glove, giving Aviles another chance. He laced an RBI single up the middle and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead. As it turns out, the foul ball would have been ruled dead even if Buck had caught it because of the wire.
With 37 RBIs, Aviles is trailing David Ortiz by just one for the team lead.
"That's kind of cool, I guess. That just shows you how good of an offense this team really does have," Aviles said. "I feel like I bat with somebody on base all the time."
With runners on second and third and two outs, Valentine elected to let Buchholz hit. It almost worked, as Buchholz looped one into center. However, center fielder Chris Coghlan made a diving catch to keep two runs from scoring.
Buchholz's shutout bid ended in the bottom half of the frame when Logan Morrison led off with a homer to right. Two batters later, Buchholz endured a collision with Coghlan on a tapper down the first-base line, but Buchholz got the tag down and held on to the ball, even as he fell over.
"It sort of stung a little bit," Buchholz said. "It felt like old football days. It was a play where Youk sort of was crashing and I felt the only play I had was to tag him out. I felt like I was about to get ran over."
The inning ended with another scare, as Buck pummeled one to center field that Scott Podsednik snagged just in front of the 418-foot sign.
There was yet more drama in the eighth, with Vicente Padilla on for Boston. Omar Infante reached on a two-out infield hit. Hanley Ramirez then blooped a single into right, bringing up the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton. The fearless Padilla came at Stanton with four straight fastballs, striking him out looking to end the threat.
"In that situation, we were up by one run, a man on third base and that situation, I concentrated a little more to make my pitches and make good pitches to get him out," said Padilla.
Alfredo Aceves came on in the ninth for the save, his 15th.