Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

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Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

FOXBORO -- So what does Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins mean to Bill Belichick?

Somewhere between resting injured players and the Patriot Way lies a more important reward: a first-round playoff bye.

To get that first-round bye, the Patriots will need either a Houston Texans or a Denver Broncos loss on Sunday. But they'll also need to hold up their end of the bargain, with a win over Miami at Gillette Stadium.

When asked about resting players, Belichick expressed what Sunday's game means to him.

"There's nothing that we can do to help ourselves unless we beat Miami," said Belichick before Friday's practice. "There's nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win. So, we have to win for anything to happen positive. That's no guarantee that it will, but that's the first prerequisite, so we're operating under that premise. We've got to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. And we have to win first. That's really what it's all about."

Belichick was then asked about the possibility of showing the rest of the league a little too much, and perhaps tipping off some things that they'll do in the playoffs, in the process.

Once again, Belichick said that he's going to do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, expressing the importance of Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

"I think that definitely would be a consideration if the game didn't mean anything, standings-wise," said Belichick. "Kind of like a preseason game. You're out there playing, but the game really doesn't count in the standings, it counts in your development as a team.

"But I think when you're in a situation like we are, where we need to win to improve, then it's worth winning to improve."

But to improve on what?

The Patriots -- with a 4:25 p.m. kickoff -- have tried to convince the media all week long that they won't be paying any attention to what happens in the Houston Texans' 1 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts. It's the "Patriot Way" to focus strictly on their next opponent, and their next opponent only.

But as previously stated, to get that first-round bye, they'll also need some help. If they get that help, they'll also need to help themselves.

Because Sunday's game against the Dolphins means more than just improvement. It means more than just resting players.

Even Belichick couldn't let his "Patriot Way" disguise the fact that it also means a potential first-round bye.

And yes, that is important to him.

"I mean, it's one less game you have to play, so, in this league at this time of year, you know you're playing a good team," said Belichick on what a first-round bye means to him. "So whoever you play, they're going to be good. So having to play one less game, I think there's some advantage to that, definitely."

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

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Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.