BOSTON - You know hitters are struggling when the opposing pitcher keeps himself loose through a two-hour rain delay, just to keep facing them.
Boston's Clay Buchholz held the Twins scoreless for two innings Saturday, then waited through a 127-minute rain delay before hanging three more zeros on Fenway Park's manual scoreboard.
"He made me look bad," said Twins starter Brian Duensing, who didn't return after the delay.
The Twins actually had good reasons for pulling Duensing, and the Red Sox knew they made a desperate decision to squeeze five innings from Buchholz in a 4-0 victory.
Boston had a three-game losing streak and no long-relief options after Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves had combined to pitch nine innings in Friday's 9-2 loss to the Twins.
Both teams hoped the delay would be short when it started, with Boston up 1-0 heading into the third inning.
The Twins have a firm policy of not sending a pitcher back to the mound if a delay lasts longer than 45 minutes. Duensing rode an exercise bike to keep loose, but the Twins told Kevin Slowey to be ready, and he held Boston to one run over 4 1/3 innings in his first game back from the disabled list.
Buchholz, 26, stayed loose by throwing in the batting cage behind his dugout. The righthander took 15-minute breaks and did some stretching and repeated the cycle about three or four times, he said.
"Then the forecast changed a little bit for the worse," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Boston decided to have Buchholz wait until shortly before the tarp was pulled to begin throwing again, to see how he felt.
"He really felt pretty good," Francona said.
"I thought I needed to go out there and throw," said Buchholz, who finished sixth in last year's American League Cy Young Award voting. "I didn't want to tax the bullpen any more than they've already been taxed over the past three or four days. The Red Sox have taken care of me since I got drafted, so that's what they did today and I came out with the win."
Buchholz (3-3) threw 28 pitches before the delay and 33 more when play resumed, giving up only two hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. Four Boston relievers pitched an inning apiece, and the Twins managed three hits for the game.
The Twins enjoyed a mini-breakout Friday against the 44-year-old Wakefield, but they rank last in the American League in scoring, at 3.16 runs per game.
Fenway Park has a batting cage for the visiting team, too, so technically the Twins could have had Duensing (2-2) jump through the same hoops Buchholz did.
"He went out and threw three more innings," Duensing said. "Was it worth it? Who knows? Not really, if he goes out there and gets tight, gets sore or hurt. It's hard enough to be a position player and do it, but for a pitcher, it's not easy to do."
Asked if he was surprised to see Buchholz return, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said: "It's not my business. ... I think their pitching situation's a little different than ours. They've used a lot of pitchers, so you'll have to ask Terry [Francona] those questions. We just do what we do with our guys."
For Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, protecting the pitchers is job No. 1.
Joe Christensen • email@example.com