NEW YORK -- A nagging injury that caused an 11-day interruption between starts wasn't nearly enough to derail Clay Buchholz during the most magical run of his career.
Boston's ace right-hander stepped back on the mound Sunday night and picked right up where he left off, firing five shutout innings while leading the Red Sox to a rain-shortened 3-0 victory over the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.
In his first 11 starts of 2013, Buchholz is 8-0 with a Major League-leading 1.62 ERA.
"Unbelievable," said designated hitter David Ortiz. "I mean, his command is ridiculous. He throws every pitch for a strike in any situation. He's confident and his focus is ridiculous. I sense that when he's on the mound. You see how he's focused, how he executes. His numbers talk for themselves."
The only thing that could stop Buchholz was the rain, which halted play while the Red Sox were batting in the top of the sixth and limited Buchholz's performance to just the five innings and 71 pitches.
But as a sign of how much fortune Buchholz has had this season, even the shortened stint turned out to help him.
Once the game was finally called for good after a third delay that took place in the bottom of the sixth inning, it meant that Buchholz was credited with a complete-game shutout, the fourth of his career.
"That's awesome," Buchholz said with a smile.
Reliever Andrew Miller had been announced in the pressbox as a replacement for Buchholz, which would have negated both the shutout and the complete game. But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Official Statistician of Major League Baseball, Miller was not credited with an appearance because he did not throw a pitch or pick off a runner.
Buchholz hadn't pitched since May 22 because of irritation in his right AC joint, but there was no evidence of rust.
"After the first inning, he started getting better touch and feel, and the last couple, three innings that he threw were as sharp as he's been all season," said manager John Farrell. "He threw an assortment of pitches ahead in the count. It looked like he could go to any single pitch in any given situation. He kept them being tentative to the point where they weren't sure which pitch was going to come in which sequence."
Buchholz and Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda pitched to a 0-0 stalemate over the first three innings.
The Red Sox rallied in the fourth when Dustin Pedroia led off with a single up the middle and Ortiz followed with a single to right that put runners at the corners with nobody out.
Mike Napoli hit a fielder's-choice grounder to short that scored Pedroia for the first run of the game.
Jose Iglesias, who has tormented the Yankees consistently this season, opened the fifth by belting a home run to left. It was the first homer of 2013 for Iglesias, and the second of his career.
Given the opportunity to fill in at third base while Will Middlebrooks rehabs from a back injury, Iglesias might just stay on the roster even when Middlebrooks returns.
"That's not my decision," said Iglesias. "That's their decision."
Iglesias is hitting .434 in 53 at-bats.
"Yeah, I feel pretty good," Iglesias said. "I'm just putting good at-bats and trying to put together a good swing for the team."
In the sixth, it was Ortiz who found a pitch he liked from Kuroda and walloped it into the second deck in right-center, giving Buchholz a 3-0 lead.
"I just put a good swing on it and made things happen," said Ortiz.
Two batters after the Ortiz homer, the game went into a 37-minute rain delay. Play resumed long enough for the Yankees to get out of the top of the sixth.
Four minutes later, play again was halted -- this time for good. Ortiz's homer, his 10th on the year, counted in the books, making it a 3-0 final score. According to rule 10.03 (e)(1), "If a regulation game is called, the official scorer shall include the record of all individual and team actions up to the moment the game ends."
During the final delay -- which lasted 35 minutes, there was one viciously loud thunder and lightning bolt that boomed through the stadium.
"I heard some guys kind of buckled a little bit," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "I was inside and didn't hear it. All I know is my TV went out. That was my clue that the weather was pretty bad."
Once play was called, the Red Sox had accomplished their goal, taking two out of three from their rivals.
"That's how you get yourself closer to the playoffs: winning series, winning series, winning series," said Ortiz. "At end of season it's, 'Wow, we're in the playoffs because of that.' We have to try to get the best out of every single series and move on."
Meanwhile, the Red Sox head into Monday's off-day knowing that they went 13-7 while playing 20 games in 20 days. They leave New York with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Orioles in the American League East.
The Rangers come to Fenway on Tuesday.
"We're fully aware of where we are. We've got a challenging month ahead of us," said Farrell. "It starts on Tuesday with Texas coming into town. They kind of manhandled us a little bit in a three-game set down in Arlington. We're not, certainly, looking too far ahead. I say the month of June, but I know our guys in that clubhouse are looking at just Tuesday and that's the extent of it."