McAdam: No more outside help for Red Sox

540892.jpg

McAdam: No more outside help for Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Somehow, in this bizarro September, the Red Sox lost Wednesday night -- again -- and still managed to gain ground in the American League wild card race.

For that, the Red Sox can thank, the New York Yankees, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays twice in a day-night doubleheader.

That sort of gift-giving, however, is likely to stop Thursday. After clinching the American League East title with their nightcap win over the Rays, the Yankees are out of the competition business.

They've clinched. They've done their part. The rest is up to the Red Sox, which is hardly encouraging news.

While the Yankees were doing all the heavy lifting Tuesday and Wednesday, beating the Rays three straight, the Red Sox were busy twice losing late-inning leads, as if they couldn't be bothered to do any of the work themselves.

Why break a sweat when the Yankees were doing it all for you?

The Rays have one game remaining with the Yankees Thursday night, but the rules have changed. Now that the Yankees know they've clinched, their motivation has changed.

It doesn't matter how many more games they win over the next week -- the Yanks are going to finish first in the division no matter what, and in all likelihood, with the best record in the American League (they have a five-game lead over fellow division-leaders Detroit and Texas), giving them home field advantage in the ALCS, too.

Joe Girardi is as old-school as they come and no doubt will take into consideration the integrity of the game. Girardi's Yankees won't roll over Thursday night, over the weekend when they host the Red Sox or in the final three games of the season when they travel to Tropicana Field.

But they have their priorities, too, and winning isn't necessarily at the top of that to-do list. The Yankees are more interested in resting some veterans and getting their pitching staff in order for the postseason. And they've earned that right.

The Red Sox? They've earned nothing except the mess in which they currently find themselves.

They finished the final homestand of the season with a 3-7 mark, including an embarrassing final series that saw them drop three-of-four to last-place Baltimore.

(Don't think that Buck Showalter didn't enjoy every minute of the last three days, given his comments in Men's Health, published during spring training, in which he said he took particular satisfaction out of beating the deep-pocketed Red Sox.)

In the last two games, the Red Sox had leads in the seventh and eighth innings respectively -- and lost both. Wednesday night, they went down without much of a fight. After the Orioles went ahead in the top of the seventh, the Red Sox went in order, no fuss necessary, in each of their final turns at bat.

As they left the field Wednesday for what should have been a sendoff to the post-season, they were instead booed lustily by the frustrated fans.

It was hardly a storybook ending to the home half of the season.

What happens from here on out is anyone's guess. Thanks to the Yankees, the Red Sox' Magic Number was reduced to five games with six to play.

Should they figure out a way to win five of their last six games, the Sox could clinch the wild card outright. By winning four of their last six, they would assure themselves of no worse than a tie.

But given the way they've been playing, the Red Sox will probably need some help. And here's where things get tricky.

The Yankees have no responsibility to the Red Sox Thursday night or next week in St. Petersburg. And while the Red Sox were fumbling through the last two weeks -- and the Rays, the last few days -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim joined the wild card race, pulling even with the Rays with seven games remaining.

After one more game in Toronto Thursday night, the Angels return home to host Oakland, then have Texas for the final three games.

Not long ago, that series was supposed to determine the A.L. West title, but the Rangers have a five-game lead over the Angels for the division crown. That means that the Rangers will have likely clinched the division before Monday. And that means the Rangers won't have much motivation for the final three games, either.

Like the Yankees, they'll have their own agenda: resting position players and putting their post-season pitching in order.

So, if the Red Sox know what's good for them -- and frankly, there's little evidence of that -- they'll take care of business for themselves over the weekend.

"We're going to have to fight for everthing we get the rest of the way,'' acknowledged Terry Francona, "and make it happen to get where we want to go . . . We have our work cut out for us.''

And, obviously, no one to blame but themselves.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

Following practice Claude Julien confirmed that Chara was “probable” to return for tonight’s game vs. the Florida Panthers after missing the last six games, and that Krug is expected to play after succumbing to the same illness that felled Patrice Bergeron over the weekend. Beleskey was being checked by doctors on Monday, and it sounds like his absence might be a bit longer term than simply a “day-to-day” lower body injury. 

Noel Acciari took part in practice, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

patriots_bill_belichick_120416.jpg

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

With 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, and with the hosts up 26-3, quarterback Tom Brady was back on the field to lead the Patriots offense. 

It was a decision that had some scratching their heads. Why risk the health of your Hall of Fame quarterback in a game that's essentially been decided? Particularly at this point in the year? Particularly just days after the team lost it's most dynamic offensive weapon to season-ending back surgery?

"Well, after the game turns out, it's easy to go back and make those suggestions," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I've seen a few games in this league. Seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that's not a big concern when it does happen and then when it does happen it's a major crisis and [there's] a lot of second-guessing about what should've been done or what shouldn't have been done. Trying to win the game."

The Patriots held the ball for a little over two minutes before punting it back to the Rams. By the time the Patriots got the ball back for the final time with 1:15 remaining, Brady was on the field to take two kneeldowns and wipe out the clock. 

He told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning that he wasn't looking for an early hook. The Rams have been accused of dirty plays in the past, and their coaching staff has a reputation for encouraging a reckless style, but Brady explained why he wanted to remain in the game late.

"All these games are close. I know yesterday, 26-3 at one point, but we’re playing for a lot here," he said. "i don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal. We could use as many reps as possible, all the guys out there. There are different situations that come up in every game. You only get 16 weeks a year to try them out. You try them in practice, but there’s not the speed. There’s not the urgency. It’s not the decision-making because it’s unscripted.

"In practice you go and talk about these are the plays you’re going to run, these are the defenses you can get. Then you go into the game and they it’s all about decision-making really under pressure with everything on the line, so the more reps you can get with Malcolm [Mitchell] and [Chris] Hogan and Martellus [Bennett], guys that I haven’t played with, the better it gets."

Brady escaped his late-game reps no worse for the wear -- he completed three of four passes for 14 yards on his team's second-to-last drive -- but he did take one shot earlier in the game that had him ticked. Rams safety TJ McDonald got into the Patriots backfield untouched and drove Brady into the ground during a second-quarter drive. Brady got the ball away, but he was walloped, and when he got up he sought out McDonald for a few words.

"I think it was pretty emotional," Brady told Kirk and Callahan. "I didn’t see the replay yet, but he made a good clean hit. They were blitzing us. I knew we didn’t have him picked up and he put a little extra something on.”

Asked if the threat of a play like that late in a lopsided game bothered him, Brady said no.

"I said to my wife as I was driving home, she was like, ‘What was that?’ She wants to know about all these things and I was like, ‘I think it is all fair on the football field.’ You put yourself out there," Brady explained. "You’re up 20, you’re down 20. Everyone is playing hard and whatever happens out there is on the football field. I don’t think it was a dirty play.

"Guys love going in there and hitting the quarterback. They’ve been trained to hit the quarterback their entire careers, especially on defense. They get paid more hitting the quarterback. Their team is 4-8 so they are going to play hard 'til the end no matter what. They haven’t been in a lot of games this year so they are going to play hard to try and set them up for next year. I had no problem with that hit. I thought it was a real clean play. I was pretty pissed off for the most part yesterday because we weren’t executing as well as we could and that probably had something to do with it as well."