Clay Buchholz makes early exit from start due to stiff back

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Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal passes along word that right-hander Clay Buchholz had to be pulled prematurely from his Thursday evening start against the Rays due to back stiffness.

Buchholz surrendered just two hits and one earned run over five innings before exiting and had thrown only 81 pitches. He’s been bothered by this back ailment since the beginning of June and has also been pitching through a blister on his finger.

The Red Sox are calling his early departure “precautionary” and have not indicated that he’s going to need to miss his next start, but they’re adding rotation depth in Andrew Miller next week and could simply skip Buchholz one time through the rotation to be safe. Ian Browne of MLB.com has an indication of what that might look like.

Buchholz, 26, has registered a quality 3.48 ERA and 1.29 WHIP through 14 starts this season.

Red Sox beat Yankees 11-6 to clinch AL East for third consecutive season

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The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.

AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.

With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.