Clay Buchholz, Bobby Valentine

Clay Buchholz has the Red Sox in a bind


Clay Buchholz is throwing in the low-90s consistently. His curveball looked plenty good today. He’s been inconsistent with his changeup, but that hardly explains the 9.09 ERA.

Buchholz gave up five more runs in 3 2/3 innings Sunday in a no-decision in what ended up being a 17-inning loss to the Orioles. He’s allowed at least five runs in all six of his outings this season. The three homers he surrendered today brought his season total to 10 in 32 2/3 innings. That’s one more than he allowed in 173 2/3 innings while winning 17 games for the Red Sox in 2010.

Obviously, Buchholz’s command has been an issue. Four more walks today brought his season total to 19. Still, even more than that, it seems like a lack of confidence is his biggest problem.

Questions about his mental toughness dogged Buchholz as he initially struggled to establish himself in Boston. He made such oddly timed pickoff throws to first and sometimes just seemed to shrink on the mound during his first three years before his breakthrough campaign two seasons ago. He hasn’t gotten himself back into some of those odd habits, but there’s certainly been some indecisiveness on the mound during his six starts this year.

For all of his struggles, Buchholz hasn’t really hurt the Red Sox yet. The team is 3-3 with him on the mound (compared to 8-13 the rest of the time) and two of the losses came in extra innings. Still, the club can’t run him out there with a 9.00 ERA for too much longer. If he’s not better next time out, the Red Sox may have to option him to Triple-A and give Andrew Miller or someone else a crack at his rotation spot. They might actually need to do it now after exhausting their bullpen Sunday.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.