Clay Buchholz has been among baseball’s best pitchers this season. Monday night will be the first time he’ll get the ball since an allegation of cheating clouded his last start.
Buchholz can match the best start by a Boston pitcher since 2007 as he tries to become baseball’s first seven-game winner in the opener of a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (20-11) are coming off a sweep at the hands of Texas - including a 4-3 loss Sunday that saw their batters match a season high with 16 strikeouts.
“Despite the early success that we’ve had, we knew this would be a tough series,” manager John Farrell said.
Farrell should feel good about their chances to bounce back as his team has yet to lose with Buchholz on the hill.
Buchholz is 6-0 with a major league-leading 1.01 ERA and has gone at least seven innings in all six outings. However, his latest gem - seven shutout innings in a 10-1 win at Toronto on Wednesday - was followed by Blue Jays broadcast analyst Dick Hayhurst accusing him of having an illegal substance on his forearm and applying it to the baseball.
Buchholz said he applies only rosin to his arm.
“I put a little bit of water on my hip just to get it a little moist, because sometimes the balls they throw to you feel like cue balls off a pool table,” Buchholz told the team’s official website. “You have to find a way to get grip. Definitely no foreign objects or substances on my arm.”
With a victory Monday, Buchholz will match the 7-0 mark by Josh Beckett through his first seven starts in 2007 for Boston.
Fenway is the last stop on a 10-game road trip that will match a season long for the Twins (13-14), who started their travels 1-4 before a 4-2 win at Cleveland on Sunday. Minnesota starters were 1-3 with a 7.18 ERA in the first five games of the trip but were picked up by Mike Pelfrey who allowed one run and four hits in six innings against the Indians as the team avoided a sweep.
“No one wants to get swept,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’d like to start winning series. That’s our goal.”
The Twins hope for a similar performance Monday from Vance Worley (0-4, 7.22 ERA), but he’s shown few promising signs in his first season with Minnesota. The struggles continued Tuesday for the right-hander, who gave up six runs and 10 hits - including a career-high three homers - in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss at Detroit.
He’ll now have to deal with David Ortiz who owns a 25-game hitting streak dating back to last season and has recorded an extra-base hit in 11 of his 12 games this year, including his fourth homer Sunday. Ortiz is also hitting .335 in 47 career games against Minnesota, his original team.
Justin Morneau is batting .500 with four doubles over his last five against the Red Sox and .342 for his career. He’s also 7 for 14 against Buchholz, who is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his last four starts against Minnesota.
Worley won his only career start against Boston, allowing one run, five hits and two walks over seven innings while with Philadelphia on June 29, 2011.
The Red Sox have won nine of 13 in the series but the Twins took three of four in Boston last year.