BALTIMORE -- A bright light during a tough time, Clay Buchholz came through yet again for the Red Sox on Thursday night, making sure his team didn't get swept at a time it simply can't afford to.
In a 6-3 victory over the Orioles, Buchholz gave the Red Sox eight gutty innings, scattering eight hits and three walks while striking out seven.
After being touched up for three runs over the first two innings, Buchholz didn't relinquish anything for the rest of the night.
The wiry righty ran his record to 11-3 and lowered his ERA to 4.19, once again proving why he has easily been the staff ace over the last month.
"He brought the competitive spirit to a new level, I thought," said manager Bobby Valentine. "They were jumping on his early pitches. He got down early, and when he saw that we had some resiliency in our offense, he shut the door and shut it quick. He was a great competitor -- a great pitcher tonight."
In six starts since July 19, Buchholz is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA. He has averaged nearly eight innings a start in that span.
"Every game from here on out is big, no matter who we're playing," said Buchholz. "It's something that we've been saying for the last couple weeks -- try to get on a run for eight or nine games in a row, get us back in the mix and get us some confidence moving forward. Hopefully it's a step in that direction, being down, coming back against this ballclub."
As of now, the winning streak is just one, but every run has to start somewhere. The victory came on a night the ownership trio of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner arrived shortly before the first pitch, perhaps in a show of support for the team during a tough time. They also visited the team in the clubhouse after the game.
"They've got busy lives just like we do. I'm sure they could've been somewhere else, but it shows they're behind us and supporting us," said Buchholz.
Buchholz was at his overpowering best in the bottom of the sixth, when he struck out Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis with the minimum of nine pitches, marking just the 47th time in history that feat has been accomplished.
"That sixth inning, he was like a man possessed," said Valentine.
The offense, which has been spotty of late without David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, came to life, helping Buchholz recover from a sluggish first two innings.
Down 3-1 in the second, the Red Sox got two big plays from the defense. Nick Markakis pounded a bunt too hard, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia pounced on it and started a 2-5-3 double play. With two outs, J.J. Hardy stung a single to right, but Cody Ross charged and made a perfect throw to the plate, nailing Omar Quintanilla.
"It was one of those plays that you practice your whole life," said Ross. "It just ended up being perfect. I fielded it cleanly. My exchange was good. I threw it up the line a little bit, but Salty made a great play and a great tag."
It was Dustin Pedroia who sparked the Red Sox in the fifth. After a one-out single by Carl Crawford, Pedroia rifled a double into the gap in right-center. Crawford wound up scoring on a wild pitch, with Pedroia moving to third. Adrian Gonzalez hit a medium-depth flyball to center field, and Pedroia tested the strong arm of Jones, barely sliding in safely to tie the game at 3.
"He has one of the best arms in the league, it was a shallow fly ball," said Valentine. "It seems like he runs as fast as he has to to be safe. It's pretty impressive. He's going to leave it on the field every single night. He's that competitor that, you know, makes a team go. He never stops. He hits all pitches. He makes all plays."
Back came Boston with some more noise in the sixth, this time against reliever Luis Ayala. Podsednik got the rally started with a double and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a walk.
Crawford reached on a fielder's choice and stole second. With two runners in scoring position and two outs, Pedroia hit a tapper that third baseman Manny Machado tried to make a play on but couldn't, allowing Podsednik to score the go-ahead run. Gonzalez blasted an RBI single to right, bringing in Crawford, and Ross stretched the lead to 6-3 with an RBI single to left.
From there, Buchholz was simply magnificent.
And the owners were rewarded with a win on their night at Camden Yards.
"It's nice," Ross said. "They want to win just as bad as we do, if not more. Everybody in here wants to win, and we're not happy with how we're playing, and we want to do something about it. And so do they. And so do the coaches. That's the goal."