It would be an overstatement to say that Clay Buchholz(notes) was dominant on Friday against Toronto, but he did manage to win without his best stuff. The curve actually gets better. Buchholz allowed four hits (all to lefties) and three walks to the Jays in 5.2 innings, giving up one run and striking out three. (Video).
All things considered, it was an effective performance. That's not really surprising, since the 24-year-old Buchholz already has a big league no-hitter to his credit and he's having a phenomenal season at Triple-A Pawtucket (2.36 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 89 Ks).
What's his reward for beating the Jays? Here's manager Terry Francona, via MLB.com:
"We optioned him back after the game, which he knew was going to happen. Considering the circumstances and everything, I thought he had poise, I thought he had good stuff. He attacked with his fastball. He threw his changeup. He threw his breaking ball. He commanded the game. It's really gratifying for us."
So don't get too attached just yet. Buchholz will be back, but we can't say exactly when. And if tonight's effort was a showcase start, then we can't even say with complete confidence who he'll pitch for when he returns. He remains a prospect of interest for fantasy purposes, though, and we saw no reason to downgrade him tonight.
• Buchholz beat Ricky Romero(notes), who still finds a way to impress you in losing efforts. Romero had eight Ks (all swinging) in 4.1 innings, but he allowed a homer to Kevin Youkilis(notes) and a near-homer to David Ortiz(notes). It looked like we were in for a serious pitching duel until Dustin Pedroia(notes) wore down Romero with a 12-pitch at-bat in the fifth. Their battle ended in a walk, although Gameday thinks the 12th pitch was a strike (pictured, left). In any case, Romero is a great second-half play. We hereby reaffirm our endorsement.
• Edwin Encarnacion(notes) remains perfect following the All-Star break. He went 4-for-4 with a home run against the Brewers on Friday, and he was 3-for-3 with a homer on Thursday. This has all the makings of a binge. Encarnacion is just 35 percent owned. Act now, if you have a need.
• Check out the in-the-stands catch by Micah Hauffpauir. Nice play, but the ballgirl's reaction (or non-reaction) really makes the highlight.
• If you're in a holds league, you already know how valuable Phil Hughes(notes) has become. He earned a win in relief on Friday, striking out six batters in just two innings of work. He's given up just six hits in his last 14.2 innings, and the SP-eligibility is no small detail.
• Garrett Jones(notes) supplied all the offense for the Bucs in their 2-1 win over the Giants on Friday. Jones belted a solo homer in the first inning off Tim Lincecum(notes) (only the fifth he's allowed all year), and a walk-off in the 14th, nine or ten hours later. After 13 games this year, Jones has seven home runs, three steals and a .312 average. He's homered in four straight games and hit safely in his last nine. Scott offered to let you in on the ground floor, but you turned him down cold. Jones is just 33 percent owned.
• Albert Pujols(notes) also had a two-homer game, but that's never really news. Here's the noteworthy part: Albert is now on a 60-homer pace, and 50 seems to be in the bag. Both of tonight's home runs were hit when Pujols led off innings, so it's not as if he should have been an automatic IBB. The second was a rocket. (Video). Perhaps you just award the free pass when the count is 3-0.
Various notes, not quite bullet-worthy: Gary Sheffield(notes) left the Mets most recent mauling (11-0 L) with what appeared to be a serious hamstring issue, but is reportedly just cramps. ... The plague of dizziness has claimed another victim: Erick Aybar(notes). But his dizziness was acquired the traditional way, via collision. ... Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) is so good whenever I write CT that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore. Another win, another 10 Ks. ... Lightly owned Orlando Cabrera(notes) now has six straight multi-hit games. ... Check the speed from Rajai Davis here. He somehow scored from first on a wild pick-off throw. Love the commentary: "That would be a costly error." ... Scott Hairston(notes) had to leave the Angels-A's tilt after being hit by a pitch on the wrist, and Bob Geren says he's questionable for Saturday. ... Jose Arredondo(notes) should be returning soon to a setup role in the Angels' 'pen. Mike Scioscia: "Arredondo had what we heard was the best stuff he's had this year -- 94 [mph], good slider, good split." ... When Jim Thome(notes) establishes a new career high for RBIs in a single game, then you know it was a pretty good night. The DH homered twice against the O's, driving in seven runs. That makes 14 RBIs in his last three games. ... My NL-only shortstop has bunions. Not to be confused with Funyuns. He may or may not have those, too.
Photos via AP Images