Clay Buchholz doesn’t try to out-stuff hitters anymore. He knows he can’t. But after shutting down the Los Angeles Angels over seven shutout innings of a 5-1 victory on Wednesday night, the Diamondbacks right-hander pointed to another possible reason for his unexpected resurgence this season.
“I pitch a little differently now,” he said. “I go more on what our catchers and our coaches see rather than how I feel. I try to pitch to hitters’ weaknesses a lot more than I used to. I used to rely solely on stuff.”
Buchholz said the scouting reports he receives from pitching strategist Dan Haren, coupled with his catchers’ ability to improvise within a game, are a couple of under-the-radar reasons why he’s been able to dominate over 80 innings this season with the Diamondbacks, for whom he has posted a sparkling 2.25 ERA.
“He’s made me better,” Buchholz said of Haren, the former All-Star pitcher who produces detailed scouting reports before every game for each of the Diamondbacks’ starting pitchers. “I’ve told him that. He’s made me better.”
With the win, the Diamondbacks finished a two-game sweep of the Angels. It was their third consecutive victory and their sixth in the past seven as they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead on the second-place Colorado Rockies while both clubs gained another game on the faltering Los Angeles Dodgers. With their loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers are 4 1/2 games back, their largest deficit since May.
BOX SCORE: Diamondbacks 5, Angels 1
Paul Goldschmidt had three hits, including his record 96th career home run at Chase Field, putting him one ahead of Luis Gonzalez’s 95. Goldschmidt’s two-run shot gave the Diamondbacks their 110th and 111th first-inning runs this season and gave them an early 2-0 lead. They never looked back.
Buchholz was a big reason for that. He held the Angels to just four hits and no walks, never allowing more than one baserunner in an inning while only one man reached as far as second base. It was the 11th time in 13 starts this season in which he’s allowed two earned runs or less.
As usual, he was helped some by his defense – shortstop Nick Ahmed made the play of the night, smoothly gloving a hard smash off the bat of Albert Pujols to start a double play in the fourth – but for the second consecutive start, Buchholz appeared to be in total command.
Diamondbacks starter Clay Buchholz on his strong outing against the Angels on Wednesday night.
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
Pitching with diminished velocity compared to where he was in his prime, Buchholz has relied on his ability to pound the strike zone, command his pitches and change speeds at will. He says he’s also leaned heavily on the reports he gets on opposing hitters.
“Just reading over the stuff that we (receive), it’s pinpointed towards the individual,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot from it. You still have to go out and execute. It doesn’t make the game any easier, but if you’re on top of your game and you can command the pitches that you throw, you know where you can throw pitches and not allow you to be exposed. You’re not pitching to their strengths.”
Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt on two-game sweep of the Angels.
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
When he was younger, he said he would throw whatever pitch felt right, regardless of what the game plan might say. Sometimes he’d read a report and forget certain parts. Now, he says, he’s gotten better at digesting a game plan, understanding what parts are applicable to him, and then using it to navigate his way through a start.
Said manager Torey Lovullo: “I think we might have a small part in assisting him in developing a game plan. You know we have some really incredible people that are working on this game plan and developing a game plan, and then Clay trusts that. He trusts his catcher, he trusts the information he’s getting and he goes out and executes.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Angels
Richard Obert, azcentral sports