BOSTON - Clay Buchholz was a nervous 23-year-old rookie when he threw a no-hitter in his second major league start. He was more relaxed when he nearly did it again Sunday.
"A lot more than the last time it happened," the 28-year-old right-hander said after not allowing a hit until Kelly Johnson's broken-bat single leading off the eighth inning of Boston's 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
That's not the only difference in Buchholz from that second start for the Red Sox on Sept. 1, 2007.
"He knows himself more as a pitcher," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was their pitching coach from 2007-10. "I think where that shows up is in those spots where he's got men on base, runners in scoring position. You don't see that emotional spike as evident as maybe his first year or so. That's where he's been able to execute quality pitches in those tight spots."
There weren't many of them Sunday, when Buchholz had excellent command of four pitches. He allowed two hits and four walks in eight innings and struck out a career-high 11.
Johnson singled with an 0-1 count on Buchholz's 101st pitch, sending the ball over first baseman Mike Napoli while the top part of the bat landed near the front edge of the infield between first and second. Buchholz got Sam Fuld to ground into a double play and then allowed Desmond Jennings' double off the left-field wall. Ben Zobrist flied out to left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Johnson had struck out in his other two at-bats.
"I was feeling I had to do something different," he said. "I put my back foot a tad closer to home plate and picked up a Sam Fuld model bat. He threw me two breaking balls, and I wasn't expecting that. Luckily I was in a good enough position on the second one."
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia took the end of the no-hit bid hard.
"It killed me because I've seen Clay throw really well," he said, "but today was amazing."
Buchholz (3-0) lowered his ERA to 0.41 and has allowed one earned run in 22 innings He left after 109 pitches, and Andrew Miller finished with a one-hit ninth.