BOSTON – Clay Buchholz feels like he’s ready for the postsesason. He just won’t have a perfect record when he gets there.
Buchholz lost for the first time this season, and the AL East champion Boston Red Sox rested a couple regulars while falling to Mark Buehrle and the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 on Saturday night.
Having missed more than three months because of a strained neck, Buchholz feels like his strength is where it was before the injury. He just needs to fine tune a few things.
“I feel good. Movement on all the pitches is there,” he said. “It’s just the command and location and where to start it, which is sometimes hard to get better. The velocity is there and the body feels good.”
Buchholz (11-1) gave up two earned runs on six hits and two walks in six innings. He had pitched 11 scoreless innings in his previous two starts since coming off the disabled list.
A day after the Red Sox clinched the division title, they lost for just the sixth time in 21 games. Manager John Farrell didn’t start second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Mike Napoli, and used starter Ryan Dempster for an inning of relief.
Buchholz was the first Boston pitcher to start a season 11-0 in his initial 14 starts since Roger Clemens went 13-0 in 1986.
“I thought Clay was pretty sharp and pretty crisp for the time he was out on the mound tonight,” Farrell said. “He was fighting to get back out for the seventh, but seeing the progression he’s on, I think it was a comfortable number of pitches for tonight.”
Buchholz broke into a slight grin when he was asked about how hard it is to go undefeated for an entire season.
“It probably could have easily have happened sooner than now,” he said of his first loss. “The guys that play behind me all year have found ways to come back in situations where I came out of the game behind in the game.”
Boston’s lead over Oakland dropped to 1½ games for the AL’s best record and home-field throughout the postseason.
Dempster made his first relief appearance since 2007, working a scoreless eighth. Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks shifted to first for the first time in his career.
Jonny Gomes and David Ross each drove in a run for the Red Sox.
Adam Lind’s RBI double highlighted a three-run fourth that carried the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays scored all three runs with two outs after Brett Lawrie beat out a routine grounder to short for an infield hit. Lind followed with an RBI double, Rajai Davis added a run-scoring single and Moises Sierra scored from third on Buchholz’s errant pickoff throw to first.
Buehrle (12-9) held Boston to one run for the third time in five starts that he’s faced them this year. He allowed five hits, striking out five without walking a batter. He reached 200 innings for the 13th straight season.
“Wish it was in a better situation,” Buehrle said of reaching the mark again.
Manager John Gibbons was impressed by the left-hander’s season.
“Steady Eddy,” Gibbons said. “Doing what he has been doing his whole career. You get 25 Buehrles and you are probably gonna have a good year.”