Clay Buchholz has the Red Sox in a bind

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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.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.