ST. LOUIS - The Red Sox put a starting pitcher on the mound for Game 4 of the World Series who admitted to not being 100 percent because of a shoulder problem. But that recipe didn't turn out to be the disaster many nervous Red Sox fans thought it would be.
Buchholz, who said he's been dealing with shoulder tightness since his start in ALCS Game 6, allowed three hits and one unearned run in his four innings. After throwing 66 pitches, he was relieved by Felix Doubront to start the fifth, and the lefthanded added a scoreless inning to keep the score tied at 1-1.
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Buchholz entered the game 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts this postseason.
"We're not putting him in harm's way by walking him to the mound tonight, and feel like we've got every reason to believe that what he's done the last couple of starts out there for us is the expectation going into tonight,'' Red Sox manager John Farrell said before the game. "If that means we have to go to the pen or a pinch-hit situation in the sixth inning, that wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.''
Buchholz, who struggled to hit 90 mph with his fastball, needed 13 pitches to retire the Cardinals in order in the first.
The second started in the same vein as Buchholz got Matt Adams to ground out. But Yadier Molina, 5-for-12 in the first three games of the Series, lined the first pitch he saw into the gap in right-center for a double.
Buchholz fell behind Jon Jay 3-and-0 before walking him. But he struck out David Freese looking and induced a grounder to short by Daniel Descalso.
The Cardinals grabbed the lead in the third, but Buchholz wasn't entirely to blame. He struck out Cardinals starter Lance Lynn to start the inning, but leadoff man Matt Carpenter singled to center and took second when Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed the ball. Carlos Beltran, continuing to show no ill effects of the rib injury that forced him to leave Game 1, then hammered a 1-and-0 fastball to center for an RBI single that made it 1-0.
Buchholz pitched his way into and out of trouble again in the fourth.
Molina grounded back to Buchholz for the first out but Jay walked on four pitches. Freese sent a grounder to short, and Stephen Drew glove-flipped the ball to Dustin Pedroia at second. The toss was high but umpire Jim Joyce, at the center of the game-ending obstruction call at third base the night before, ruled Pedroia's foot clipped the bag before the sliding Jay reached it.
Buchholz uncorked a wild pitch that moved Freese to second and Farrell chose to intentionally walk Descalso to get to Lynn. He sliced a liner to right, but Daniel Nava was perfectly positioned for the out.
Buchholz, who missed nearly three months of the regular season with a shoulder injury before returning in September, was effective in ALCS Game 6 against the Tigers but quickly tired while allowing four hits and two runs in five innings.
Buchholz allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings in ALDS Game 3 against the Rays and five runs and eight hits in 52/3 innings in ALCS Game 2. Fatigue was an issue as each of those games wore on.
He said Saturday that he wasn't concerned about doing any long-term damage to his shoulder.
"I don't think there is any risk there,'' said Buchholz, 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in the regular season. "My one thing that I have is to go and compete. Go out there for as long as John wants to leave me out there and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability.''