CLEVELAND -- Clay Buchholz had command inside and outside, to right-handed hitters and left-handers. When he needed a ground ball, he got it. When his defense made a mistake behind him, he rebounded.
Put simply, Buchholz dominated the Indians on Friday night.
The right-hander turned in a complete-game performance and helped Boston snap a three-game losing streak with a much-needed 3-2 win at Progressive Field. Buchholz allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits, while striking out six and walking none. He retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced, allowing only Jason Donald to reach on an error in the sixth inning.
"He was terrific," manager Bobby Valentine said. "It was fun. I thought he was in control the whole way."
Said Indians designated hitter Shelley Duncan: "He had us on our heels the whole night. He was pretty filthy."
Buchholz looked like a pitcher destined for a Minor League assignment in the first month-plus of the season. He allowed five or more runs in each of his first six starts and didn't resemble the guy that had so much success in the past.
"I feel like, in the first five starts, if I missed over the plate, the ball went out of the park," Buchholz said. "A little bit of confidence goes a long way. That's where I had to build up. You can't be confident whenever you're getting your brains beat in every night."
About five starts ago, Buchholz started using a split-finger changeup. Since then, he's been unflappable.
Buchholz is 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA in his last five outings, and he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of those starts. Friday's performance may have been the best of the bunch.
Buchholz allowed a first-inning home run to Asdrubal Cabrera, but he quickly settled in after that. Buchholz, who improved to 10-3 with the win, retired the next eight batters he faced, and 14 of the next 15. The only other hit he gave up was a double to Cabrera in the fourth.
"Those were the only two pitches he missed tonight," Cabrera said.
Buchholz cruised right along, throwing only 76 pitches through seven innings, and just 104 to complete the game. He didn't overpower the Cleveland hitters with his fastball, but he didn't need to. Everything else was working.
"That's the best I've seen a guy against us, and we've seen some pretty good pitching this year," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "This guy, we just couldn't do anything.
"This night belonged to Buchholz. He was terrific."
The Red Sox didn't offer much offensive support against Cleveland left-hander Chris Seddon, but they did enough to even up the four-game series. Seddon walked Mike Aviles in the fourth, but the southpaw then made a wild throw on a pickoff attempt, allowing Aviles to go all the way to third. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia then drove home Aviles with an RBI single into left field.
Boston took the lead for good in the fifth when Cody Ross blasted a 2-1 slider from Seddon 420 feet over the wall in center field. The homer was Ross' 18th of the season, and it came with two outs in the frame.
"I was trying not to get too big and drive the ball in the gap," Ross said. "Luckily, I got some air under it."
The Tribe cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth by capitalizing on a couple of mistakes by Boston's defense. Pedroia misplayed a ground ball off the bat of Donald and watched as it rolled into shallow center field. Aviles hustled out to get it, saw Donald dancing off first base and attempted to throw him out. But Aviles' throw sailed into the stands and Donald advanced to third.
Despite the errors, Buchholz remained unfazed. He didn't allow another baserunner the rest of the game.
"I felt good," he said. "I was able to throw the cutter where I wanted to, the changeup was down all night. Everything's rolling right now for me."
Buchholz's start was exactly what the struggling Sox needed. It gave their overworked bullpen a night off, and it put the team back in the win column early in a critical road trip that will take Boston through Baltimore and New York.
The Sox hope it's the start of something more.
"It's like hitting," Ross said. "When a guy gets hot, it can get contagious. Hopefully guys watching Clay tonight can get on a roll."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.