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September 2, 2007 at 9:38 AM

Buchholz tosses no hitter


After receiving the call that he would to get the Saturday start for the big club just 24 hours earlier, Red Sox RHP and #1 prospect Clay Buchholz took advantage of the opportunity by pitching a no hitter in just his second major league start. And quite an accomplishment it was: the no-hitter was the first no-no by a rookie in Red Sox history, and only the third by a Red Sox pitcher since 1965 (Derek Lowe and Hideo Nomo being the others, both also caught by Jason Varitek). During this gem, Buchholz tallied nine strikeouts, allowed three walks, and hit a batter. He was also fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of some terrific glove work by Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp, who each made tremendous plays saving sure hits.

Despite his dominance throughout the game, there were some concerns that Buchholz may not have been allowed to finish the game out. The thin righty from Texas upped his pitched count to 102 after the eighth inning, and following the game Theo Epstein reported that Buchholz would have been pulled following his 120th pitch no matter the circumstances (prior to this game, his highest pro pitch count was 98). However, while his fastball topped out at 94 mph at a few points mid-game, he was still was regularly hitting 92 mph on the gun in the ninth, and still baffling hitters with his devastating changeup and "hammer" curveball. Ultimately, Buchholz ended the game throwing 115 pitches.

I was lucky enough to be in attendance last night, sat next to a couple of Red Sox fans from Indiana who had made it out to Boston and to Fenway for the first time. Heading into the ninth, they commented on how magical a place Fenway was: "I can't believe its the ninth inning and not a soul has left the stadium. I've never seen that in any stadium I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of them. Even during the playoffs at Wrigley, the crowd starts to dissipate in the 7th and 8th." The fan-demonium kept up after Buchholz struck out Nick Markakis looking on a 77 mph curveball to end the game without allowing a hit. The crowd just didn't want to leave, and stuck around for a good hour after the team left the field, awestruck by the performance they had just witnessed. It was a post-playoff win type atmosphere, truly a game for the ages.

The question now becomes - what's the next step for Buchholz this season? He is purportedly on a 155-inning limit this season, a limit that may have some flexibility per sources close to Buchholz. However, through last night's game, he has thrown 140.1 innings between stints in Portland, Pawtucket, and Boston this season. Will he make a few more starts for the big club this season? Will he be converted to the bullpen for the stretch run? Will he make the playoff roster? It all remains to be seen, but it sure makes for an interesting story line during September and (knock on wood) October.