Clay Buchholz throws five shutout innings in return

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Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz made his first start since June 8 on Tuesday night versus the Rays.

And it went as well as anyone could have expected.

Featuring a steady 93 mph fastball and a very sharp changeup, Buchholz tossed five scoreless innings at Tropicana Field, yielding only three hits and one walk while striking out six Rays batters. He was lifted from the game at 74 pitches — 44 of which were strikes.

Boston’s bullpen did its part, with Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combining to keep the shoutout alive in an eventual 2-0 victory.

Buchholz is now 10-0 with a 1.61 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 89 1/3 total innings this season.

The first-place Red Sox are leading the second-place Rays by 8 1/2 games in the American League East.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.