Even if you forget the wild ending to Saturday’s game — an obstruction call at third base between Allen Craig and Will Middlebrooks that handed the Cardinals a walkoff, 5-4 win — the Red Sox are in serious trouble. They trail the series 2-1, not an insurmountable lead, but they have mostly played uninspiring baseball of late. And on Sunday night they will send Clay Buchholz to the mound, a starter who admittedly is pitching through some issues and isn’t completely healthy.
“We go into tomorrow thinking that he’s going to give us what he’s been in the postseason,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell told reporters. “That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we’ve seen back in April and May. But he’s also been very effective, and we’re fully anticipating that to be the case tomorrow.”
Buchholz is slated to start Game 4 and will be on a short leash, but based on all the talk , neither he nor the Red Sox sound completely comfortable about his start. He’s taking medicine, the ball isn’t coming out of his hand like it did earlier in the season but he insists his issues, perhaps his shoulder, aren’t bugging him so much that he can’t start. Either way, Buchholz is an admirably tough guy and maybe a foolish one for putting himself, and his team, in this position. This is the World Series, however, and despite dealing with injuries throughout the season he still posted a 12-1 record and 1.74 ERA.
“It’s tough to take yourself out of a game; I’ve never done that,” Buchholz told reporters. “But with this scenario that’s going on right now, I’m going to tell them the truth. It’s not going to be one of those times where you might be feeling tired but still telling everybody you’re good to go.”
Buchholz has started three times this postseason and allowed an uninspiring 10 runs over 16 2/3 innings. He last started on Oct. 19 against the Detroit Tigers and surrendered two runs over five innings. Given the Red Sox’s options beside him, if they get an outing similar to that from Buchholz again, they would be pleased. But if there’s any sign of trouble, expect starter Ryan Dempster to be ready to relieve him for as long as needed. The Cardinals will start right-hander Lance Lynn, who has allowed seven runs over 11 2/3 innings and isn’t a dominant starter right now either, but at least he’s not dealing with an injury.
A lot is riding on Game 4 on Sunday, especially for Buchholz and Red Sox, who could easily be staring down a 3-1 deficit by the end of the day.
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Umpire Jim Joyce was correct in the call but Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not with his throw, writes Thomas Boswell.