Clay Buchholz endured a 10-day layoff, some stops and starts with his proposed return to the mound, and a 45-minute rain delay in which not a single drop of rain fell.

In the end, none of it mattered.

Making his first start since May 22, Buchholz was just as good after his week and a half absence as he had been before, shutting out the New York Yankees over five innings while allowing just two hits in a rain-shortened 3-0 victory Sunday.

Buchholz fanned four, didn't walk a batter and improved to 8-0 with the decision that saw his ERA sink to 1.62, the lowest for any Red Sox pitcher after his first 11 starts since Pedro Martinez (1.44) in 2001.

"It looked after the first inning, he started to get better touch and feel," remarked John Farrell, "and the last couple or three innings was as sharp as he's been all season. With the assortment of pitches, ahead in the count, it looked like he could go to any single pitch in a given situation. He had them being tentative, where they were unsure what pitch was going to come in what sequence."

That's what Buchholz had done for the first seven weeks of the season, but after experiencing some discomfort in his collarbone more than a week ago, the Sox first skipped his next start, then pushed back his scheduled return for two more days.

Buchholz merely picked up where he left off.

He allowed just three baserunners in his five innings -- a one-out walk to Robinson Cano in the first; a two-out infield single in front of the second base bag to Ichiro Suzuki in the second; and a leadoff single to right by Austin Romine to open the third.