First Pitch: Friday, September 23

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First Pitch: Friday, September 23

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Thursday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN: With the Yankees having clinched and the Rangers about to, the Red Sox' best weapon in September -- opponents who'll beat your wild-card competitors for you -- is about to disappear.

Sean McAdam makes the excellent point that both the Yankees (who have three games left with the Rays) and Rangers (three left with the Angels) will probably spend the final week resting their regulars and getting their pitching set up for the playoffs. (csnne.com) So the Sox really can't count on any help from the outside; if they're going to make the playoffs, they're going to have to do it themselves.

The players think they can. (csnne.com)

Don't know that the rest of us share that optimis, though.

AND IF THEY DON'T . . . it's possible David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon have played their last games at Fenway Park as members of the Red Sox. (csnne.com)

THEY MAY NOT BE THE ONLY ONES: In something of a shock, Peter Gammons -- who should know -- says Terry Francona could managing for his job in this last week. (csnne.com)

NOT SO FAST: The Sox did get some help last night, from the Blue Jays. They knocked off the Angels, pushing LA of A three games back in the loss column in the wild-card race. (ESPN Los Angeles)

None in New York, though, as the Rays -- getting a frighteningly good start from Matt Moore (St. Petersburg Times) -- crushed the Yankees (Tampa Tribune) and remain two back in the loss column.

STAT OF THE DAY? TRY STAT OF ALL TIME: With all due respect to my friends Tony Massarotti and Damon Amendolara, here's a number that sums up the Red Sox' September predictament better than anything I've seen:

Since Sept. 1, the Sox are 1-16 when scoring 11 runs or less. (csnne.com)

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: And Peter Abraham examines the pitching that made such a mind-bending statistic possible. (Boston Globe)

HOLD ON, THERE'S MORE TO IT THAN THAT: John Tomase agrees the pitching's been atrocious, but says other areas of the team have collapsed, as well. (Boston Herald)

THINGS ARE SO BAD . . . that we're even turning on Sweet Caroline. (csnne.com)

EVEN SO . . . Baseball Prospectus says the Sox have a 91.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. (csnne.com)

SAVE US! But Dan Shaughnessy is urging Bud Selig to ban the Red Sox from the postseason. (Boston Globe)

THE BEST DEALS ARE THE ONES YOU DON'T MAKE: The Red Sox tried to get Chris Capuano from the Mets to bolster their shattered starting staff (csnne.com), but couldn't come to an agreement with New York. If how he pitched Thursday is any indication, be thankful. (New York Post)

Of course, that's what we say now. Let's see how we feel when Andrew Miller or Kyle Weiland or (gasp) John Lackey goes up against the Yankees on Sunday.

AT LEAST THERE'S THAT: No matter what happens the rest of the way, you'll be happy to know Tom Werner says things are going well in Liverpool. (epltalk.com)

SO THAT'S HOW IT FEELS: Johnny Damon says the Rays watched the Red Sox' "angst" when they won three out of four up in Boston last weekend, then experienced it themselves when they came to New York and lost three out of four. (New York Post)

WE'RE NOT CRAZY ABOUT YOU EITHER, PAL: Out of nowhere, Russell Martin -- who, as Matthew Pouliot points out, would be in Boston if Theo Epstein had offered him an extra million last winter -- declares that he "hates the Red Sox" and "anything to get the Red Sox of the playoffs would be awesome with me." (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

VOTE FOR ME!! You don't hear his name mentioned in the discussions -- nor should you -- but Robinson Cano is pushing himself for American League MVP. (ESPN New York)

ISSUES OF THEIR OWN: George King lists 10 things concerning the Yankees heading into the postseason. (New York Post)

AND FINALLY . . . 'Moneyball' hits the theatres today, and gets a thumb's up from both Joe Posnanski (si.com) and Roger Ebert. (rogerebert.com)

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

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Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

BOSTON - Drew Pomeranz pitched six strong innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to their fourth straight win.

Pomeranz (4-3) made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and has lost 15 of 21 on the road.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez (1-3) early.