McAdam: Now, Sox may hope playoffs expand sooner

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McAdam: Now, Sox may hope playoffs expand sooner

DALLAS -- Under the terms of the recently-completed collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, a provision exists that baseball could institute its expanded playoff format for next season rather than wait for realignment and 2013.

After what happened Thursday, on the final day of the winter meetings, perhaps the Red Sox are thinking: The sooner, the better.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who, like the Red Sox themselves, have missed out on the postseason the last two seasons, came to terms with both first baseman Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson Thursday morning, dramatically altering the balance of power in the American League for the near future.

"They're aggressive moves,'' said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. "Certainly, they're putting their front foot forward in the American League West and the American League in general. There's a lot of good teams in the league and that will be a very competitive division with Texas and Anahiem going after each other.''

The Angels, who have gained a reputation for passivity in their dealings with past free agents, changed their image with their aggressive -- and expensive -- strikes. They can now consider themselves the equals -- at the very least of division rivals, the Texas Rangers, who have won last the two American League pennants.

Take the four A.L. playoff teams from last fall -- the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers and Rangers -- and added improvements made by the Toronto Blue Jays and Angels, and the American League playoff picture looks more crowded and competitive than ever.

"There are a bunch of teams that will be in pretty good shape going into 2012 to compete in October,'' said Cherington.

If the playoff format doesn't expand for 2012 -- MLB must make a determination by March 1 -- that leaves seven quality teams fighting for four playoff spots. And it greatly increases the chances that next year, for only the second time in the last 10 seasons, the wild card team will come from somewhere other than the American League East.

"We're trying to build the best team we can,'' said Cherington. "However many teams are in the playoffs is not going to affect that. We're trying to build a team that wins as many games as possible. If we do that, we'll have a good chance to be in the playoffs. I don't know what other teams' perspective is on it, but we've always tried to build a team that wins the most games possible and let the chips fall where they may.''

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.

First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

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First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals:

 

David Price has found a groove.

Price finally brought his ERA below 4.00.

He’d been about that mark since his second start of the season. Twenty-six starts later, he finally reached the mark.

Saturday’s start marked Price’s fourth-straight quality start. Price will soon eclipse the 200-strikeout, reaching 186 K’s with his seven-strikeout performance.

Although the lefty hasn’t been at his best throughout much of the year, he’s caught fire of late.

Possibly at the most important part of the season, too.

 

Dustin Pedroia just missed making history, can’t buy an out.

Boston’s second baseman entered Saturday with seven hits in his last seven at-bats. He stretched that streak to 11-for-11 with a 4-for-4 game.

He had the chance to go 12-for-12 in the eighth, but weakly grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

He’s also the first Red Sox player with three straight four-hit games at Fenway Park since 1913.

Boston’s second baseman continues to prove that his struggles in recent years were directly related to injuries, not diminishing performance.

 

The offense passed a big test.

It might’ve appeared that Danny Duffy was a middle-of-the-road pitcher with the way Red Sox hitters tattooed him in Saturday’s win.

But the right only had one loss in 19 starts, with a 2.66 ERA (2.61 as a starter).

Between the long balls and Dustin Pedroia’s incessant ways of late, they ballooned his ERA to 3.01.

A respectable number, still, but a jump of nearly a half of a run.

 

Sandy Leon’s in a minor cold spell.

Possibly the greatest story of Boston’s 2016 offense, Leon hasn’t had too many struggles along the way.

But after finishing 0-for-4 Saturday night, he’s only 2-for-21 (.095) in his last five games.

Saturday also marked only the third time all season where he was held hitless in back-to-back games.

These things happen to everyone, but it was starting to look like Leon didn’t fall under the category of “everyone.”