Buchholz fires gem vs. Rangers

Buchholz fires gem vs. Rangers

HOUSTON -- Jason Lane might find a bottle of champagne at his locker this week courtesy of right-hander Taylor Buchholz.

It was Lane's two-run, eighth-inning home run on Sunday afternoon in the Astros' 5-0 win against the Rangers that gave Buchholz the extra cushion needed to pitch the ninth and complete his first Major League game.

"When Lane hit the home run, I figured I'd be going back out there," Buchholz said. "So, thanks Jason."

Buchholz wasn't out there long in the ninth, even though he dealt with the heart of the Rangers' order in Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock.

He retired them on just three pitches, which gave the Astros the series win and the Silver Boot for the Lone Star series.

"I thought they might kind of sit back a little, because I know they are aggressive," Buchholz said of the ninth. "I thought they might try to work the count, but I'll take a three-pitch inning any day."

Young agreed with Buchholz's assessment.

"He threw strikes, but we got a little overaggressive and got away from our game plan," he said.

Manager Phil Garner's game plan, on the other hand, went great.

"I thought that was as good as you could pitch today," Garner said. "He did an enormous job. He really threw his fastball well all day. He threw a curveball, slider and some timely changeups for strikes."

Buchholz threw those same pitches well in his previous two starts, when he allowed a combined 16 runs on 19 hits for two losses. The difference in this start, though, was mainly Buchholz's command.

"The couple games before this, I was getting ahead of guys and then throwing fat pitches over the plate," he said.

Although Buchholz threw too many fat pitches in those previous losses, he felt the same mechanically on Sunday as he did last week.

"Nothing changed," he said. "I was just able to stay focused the whole game. I was trying not to get too overwhelmed. I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing the whole game."

Buchholz kept his pitches around the plate the whole game and made just a few mistakes. All five of his hits allowed were singles, and he never faced more than four batters in an inning.

His defense helped out, too, particularly in the seventh. That inning, Buchholz allowed a leadoff single to Kevin Mench and then a towering fly to Brad Wilkerson, which nearly cleared the wall in right.

Fortunately for Buchholz, it didn't, instead being caught for the first out. He then shifted his focus to Rod Barajas, the next batter, and escaped the jam with a 5-4-3 double play.

He didn't shy away from the Rangers, either, and that was the key to his success.

"He kept throwing the ball over the plate," Garner said. "It's my feeling that if you do that, sometimes hitters are going to bump you a little bit."

The same goes for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and right-hander Fernando Nieve, who struggled in their last outings.

"There will be some bumps," Garner said. "As we said, they don't have a lot of leeway [now], but certainly they'll be roughed up once in a while. The key is not to shy away."

Entering the bottom of the eighth, Garner shied from Buchholz pitching the ninth and started warming closer Brad Lidge. Lane's two-run homer, which stretched the Astros' lead to five, apparently changed his mind.

And now, Garner can erase this past week from his mind and move forward. But he'll need to rack up a few more wins before he uncorks some champagne of his own.

Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.