ST. LOUIS - So much is at stake and with an entire offseason to recover, Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz will make the Game 4 start on Sunday night.
He'll be at less than full health, something with which he's become accustomed.
"I don't think there is any risk there," said Buchholz. "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."
Buchholz had gaudy regular season numbers (16 starts - 12-1, 1.74, 1.025 WHIP) but he suffered through an injury-riddled campaign, missing exactly three months with a neck strain.
He made four starts after his return on September 10 and in three postseason starts, he's recorded three no-decisions while posting a 5.40 ERA and 1.440 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings. Buchholz appears to tire relatively early in games, twice against the Tigers he couldn't get out of the sixth inning, and indications are he's experiencing tightness in his pitching shoulder.
Buchholz promises to grind through.
"It's going to be my first World Series experience being on the field, and I think that just the environment, the crowd, the adrenaline, that's going to help me out, too," he said.
The 29-year-old has undergone rigorous treatment to prepare for Sunday night. Buchholz has been careful about his use of pain medication in the wake of a bout of esophagitis that put him in hospital last season.
"I stayed away from the stuff that, the really strong anti-inflammatories," said Buchholz. "Basically been on the same stuff since the first time during the season, whenever I went on the disabled list."
Buchholz's problems of late have started around the 75-pitch mark. He will be watched closely by Boston's coaching staff. Left-hander Felix Doubront and right-hander Ryan Dempster, both starters during the regular season, would be available to work multiple innings if Buchholz needs the support.
"We go into (Sunday) thinking that he's going to give us what he's been in the postseason," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we've seen back in April and May. But he's also been very effective and we're fully anticipating that to be the case (Sunday.)"
It'll be a fine balance for Buchholz, who will have to make an honest determination about the state of his arm on an inning-by-inning basis.
"Being at this level, especially on this stage, it's tough to take yourself out of a game. I've never done that before," he said. "But with this scenario that's going on right now, I'm going to tell them the truth. It's not going to be one of times where you might be feeling tired but still telling everybody that you're good to go. Like I said, I'm going to compete and give my team the best chance of winning that I can and if something does come up that I'm feeling a little rundown, then, yeah, that's something that I'll let them know."