It appears Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz will indeed return to the major leagues before the end of the regular season. Just before.
According to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, Buchholz is scheduled to pitch an inning Monday in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers, Florida. If the appearance goes smoothly, he should be cleared to return to the big leagues as a long reliever on Wednesday for Boston’s 2011 regular season finale.
Buchholz has been sidelined since the middle of June because of a stress fracture in his L2 (lumbar) vertebrae. The talented 27-year-old had a decent 3.48 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 60/31 K/BB ratio in 82 2/3 innings before landing on the disabled list.
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.