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)