BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz takes another stab at trying to find the form that made him a two-time All-Star when he faces the Los Angeles Angels in the second game of a three-game series Saturday night.
Hector Santiago starts for the last-place Angels, who come in with 10 losses in their last 11 games after falling 5-4 at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Exiled to the bullpen last month, Buchholz returned to the rotation because the team had no one else to start in his place -- and he showed decent stuff out of the 'pen. In two starts since returning, he is 0-2, having allowed eight runs (seven earned) and 11 hits in 10 1/3 innings.
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In both cases, the first inning was the problem for Buchholz (3-8, 5.90 ERA). The first start opened with a home run, a double and two runs in the first. Last Sunday at Texas, the first six batters reached, five on hits, in a three-run first.
"There's been an inning inside of each game where it's probably proved to be the difference," Boston manager John Farrell said before Friday night's series opener. "He'll settle in for a stretch of innings, a consecutive number of at-bats where he's been very effective, but the ability to go out and execute from Pitch 1 is (of) utmost importance."
Buchholz is 6-4 with a 4.83 in 12 career starts against the Angels, who have hit .285 against him over the years. Albert Pujols is 6-for-15 with a home run and Mike Trout 6-for-16 with two homers.
Santiago (4-4, 5.27 ERA) won just one of his past eight starts, but he has pitched well in two of the last three. After allowing just five hits and two runs in 12 1/3 innings over his previous two starts, he gave up six runs in seven hits in six innings against the Oakland Athletics his last time out -- Santiago getting a no-decision Sunday in a game the Angels won 7-6.
He is 1-3 with a 3.56 ERA in six career games, five starts, against the Red Sox. He is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in three appearances, two starts, at Fenway Park. Santiago started twice against Boston last season, going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA.
He has only allowed one home run in 30 1/3 career innings against Boston, and none of the current Red Sox hitters have taken him deep. Xander Bogaerts is 5-for-8, but Mookie Betts is 0-for-6, Hanley Ramirez 1-for-9 and David Ortiz 3-for-11.
Santiago tied for the American League lead by allowing 29 home runs last season, and he yielded his 16th and 17th of this season, including a grand slam by Coco Crisp, in his last start, an outing that saw him walk four and throw 116 pitches in his six innings.
"My stuff was great besides the four walks," Santiago said after that game. "Some of the guys I walked are usually aggressive and swinging at those pitches, but all-around I thought it was a good game. It was one bad pitch. ... Take away one pitch (the slam) from the day, and it's a completely different game."
The turn of the calendar could be a good thing for Santiago, who is 27-32 with a 3.79 ERA lifetime but 6-2 with a 2.67 in the month of July.