Two and a half years ago, I was on board with the Boston Red Sox acquiring Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins. Why not, right? Santana may have been coming off his worst season statistically (a 15-13 record with a 3.33 ERA) but the lefty ace would have been a dominant number one for Boston, a team fresh from winning the World Series and already equipped with Josh Beckett. We all knew of the three-team race for the two-time Cy Young winner that had the Red Sox wedged in between both New York teams but the biggest question was, for whom? The pitcher who won game four therefore clinching the 2007 World Series for Boston and another young hurler who had pitched a no-hitter late in the season? No, thanks.
Santana was dealt to the New York Mets in January of 2008 saving Red Sox fans to witness Lester’s own no-hitter in a Boston uniform later that May and watching Clay Buchholz travel on the Lou Merloni Expressway more times than Merloni himself. Buchholz would have a rocky 2008 season and a strong 2009 in the minors but was still unable to translate his success to the majors. Santana went on to have two strong seasons in New York, though neither was good enough for the Mets to earn a postseason birth. So far in 2010, things are certainly looking good for Lester and Buchholz.
I’ll take myself off of that Santana train.
It seems as though Clay Buchholz’ name is mentioned in more trade rumors than any other Boston ball player. The upside is huge: he’s a young pitcher from a highly regarded 2005 draft class who has potential to sit in the top two or three in the rotation. But yet as every trade deadline nears, you’ll hear his name.
No particular reason, really. The Sox have an abundance of pitching and could always use that one player to put them over the top. Except that the one player could very well be Clay Buchholz.
Jon Lester seemed to be on the brink. When one talks about great pitchers in the game today, Lester’s name is mentioned. Sometimes. There always seems to be something holding him back from being the true Red Sox ace. Look to see where some baseball writers pegged Lester on the depth chart for the Sox in the preseason. Third, maybe second. People knew he was good and that he could be great, but when you talk about the top 10 pitchers in baseball, Lester would be somewhere in the teens.
Not so fast.
The same two pitchers who could have quite possibly gone to the Mets are two of the biggest reasons for the Red Sox recent success. Lester’s 72 strikeouts (tied with Toronto’s Ricky Romero) are second to only Tim Lincecum’s 75. Buchholz’ six wins are tied for 4th best in the league but are top amongst of Sox pitchers, as is his 3.07 ERA.
Where’s Beckett and Lackey? Not even close. And Daisuke? Moving on.
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are two big reasons why I’m excited about this team going forward in the season. Lester is reaching “ace-status” with each passing start; as a matter of fact, he might already be there especially since winning his last five of six starts. In his last three starts, Lester hasn’t had less than 9 strikeouts. Impressive, especially since they came against the Rays, Twins and Tigers, all decent teams putting aside his initial rough start.
The most hyped pitching contest of the season thus far for the Red Sox contains Clay Buchholz stepping up against the Royals and Zack Grienke. Does something seem wrong with this? No. Absolutely not. Lester and Buchholz continue to pitch well and carry the Red Sox defensively through games. With the recent wins, the Red Sox are slowly closing the gap in the AL East and narrowing in on the Rays and Yankees for dominance at the top.