Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox insist he’s healthy despite ERA rising from 1.74 to 6.20

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Clay Buchholz has been so bad this season, going 5-7 with a 6.20 ERA after going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA last year, that the 29-year-old right-hander and Red Sox manager John Farrell are both being asked if he’s healthy or pitching through an injury.

Buchholz previously insisted that he’s healthy and here’s what Farrell told Ian Browne of MLB.com yesterday:

There’s nothing physical here. And by his own admission and [his] answers to that question repetitively, and every test that we do following a start, leading into a start, all those objective measures are fine.

If he’s not hurt, then what explains Buchholz’s terrible performance, especially on the heels on last season’s excellence?

Last season Buchholz allowed 75 hits and 23 runs in 108 innings.

This season Buchholz has allowed 126 hits and 75 runs in 102 innings.

Well, first of all last season’s dominance was a fluke, if only in that most pitchers posting a 1.74 ERA is at least somewhat a fluke and his secondary numbers were nowhere near that strong. And based on those same secondary numbers–strikeouts, walks, ground-ball rate–Buchholz has pitched more like a 4.50 ERA guy than a 6.20 ERA guy this year.

His career Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is 4.13 and his xFIP this year is 4.43. If you trust those numbers then last season was a massive fluke and this season is merely a mediocre, 4.50 ERA-caliber pitcher who’s also been terribly unlucky on balls in play.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.