Clay Buchholz pitched one of the best games of his young career at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon, allowing just three hits in eight innings, and left with a 3-0 lead, while striking out five.
And he got a no-decision.
He allowed an infield single and a walk to start the ninth, and was lifted by Terry Francona for Jonathan Papelbon. I absolutely agreed that Buchholz deserved to start the inning and go for the shutout.
Papelbon immediately gave up a two-RBI double to Miguel Cabrera, who missed a home run by about 15 feet to left-center. A strikeout later Jhonny Peralta singled him in and it was a brand new game, 3-3.
The Sox saved Papelbon's ass when Jed Lowrie led off the ninth with a single and Eric Patterson walked. Marco Scutaro but down a perfect bunt to the third base side, and pitcher Robbie Weinhardt threw it into right field, bringing in pinch-runner Darnell McDonald with the winning run and series win over the Tigers, 4-3, winning in the ninth for the second straight day.
A devastating loss was narrowly averted. Barely.
I really felt badly for Buchholz, especially when he was shown grabbing his gear and heading for the clubhouse after Peralta's single. It was a win he richly deserved. Despite the ninth inning heroics, it almost feels like a Red Sox loss.
Count me in the group that believes the Sox should explore the idea of offering Jonathan Papelbon around this winter and make Daniel Bard the closer in 2011.
And I'll let it go at that. Tampa Bay beat New York, so the Red Sox are now 6 1/2 back of NY, and 5 1/2 back of the Rays in the Wild Card.
Next up, the Indians for four at Fenway.