Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Friday, September 9

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First Pitch: Friday, September 9

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First 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).

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: In his essential Nation STATion column, Bill Chuck shows why it doesn't really matter if the Red Sox make the playoffs as the division winner or the wild card. The Boston Globe (which quoted Chuck in its story) agrees.

Good thing, because these guys are hardly looking like division winners these days. (csnne.com)

Andrew Miller's continuing struggles (csnne.com) highlighted the Sox' ongoing pitching woes, which has been at the heart of this recent 7-losses-in-10-games downturn. Take it from ESPN's Buster Olney:

.bbpBox112078609971298304 background:url(http:a3.twimg.comprofile_background_images146607075busterback2.jpg) 131516;padding:20px; p.bbpTweetbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px p.bbpTweet span.metadatadisplay:block;width:100;clear:both;margin-top:8px;padding-top:12px;height:40px;border-top:1px solid fff;border-top:1px solid e6e6e6 p.bbpTweet span.metadata span.authorline-height:19px p.bbpTweet span.metadata span.author imgfloat:left;margin:0 7px 0 0px;width:38px;height:38px p.bbpTweet a:hovertext-decoration:underlinep.bbpTweet span.timestampfont-size:12px;display:block The Red Sox have allowed 51 runs in eight games since the start of September.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet ReplyBuster Olney
Buster_ESPN

So who knows? Maybe there's still hope for Tim Wakefield to make a contribution; he'll get another chance to do so Tuesday. (csnne.com) And pitching coach Curt Young remains confident in John Lackey. (Boston Herald)

One thing's for sure: Wild card or division winner, they won't be playing very long in October with pitching like this.

AND THAT'S WHY . . . Joe Posnanski thinks Dan Wheeler is Boston's X-factor. (si.com)

SIGN OF THE TIMES: It can't be a good thing that the Red Sox are part of old friend David Pinto's Massive Tie Scenario (baseballmusings.com), since that means their playoff spot isn't mathematically safe.

BIRD LOVERS: Still, the Sox didn't lose any ground yesterday thanks to those suddenly resurgent Orioles, who beat the Yankees in 10 innings for the second straight day. (New York Daily News) The dastardly Francisco Cervelli took a shoulder-to-head blow in a home-place collision with Nick Markakis, but he stayed in the game and -- even though he's had at least three other concussions in his career -- refused a concussion test after the game. (New York Daily News) That's Cervelli . . .

ALL RIGHT FOR YOU: Nick Swisher came out of yesterday's game in the eighth inning, admitted to reporters that something was bothering him physically, but when asked what it was, replied: "I'm not going to tell you." (New York Post)

A BARGAIN AT ANY PRICE: Alex Rodriguez recently bought a 24 million house in Miami. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

SURRENDER TO THE VOID: Dan Shaughnessy says neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees are going to win the World Series. (si.com)

THIS IS IT: The Rays probably aren't either, but they're (rightfully) looking at this weekend's series against the Red Sox as their last, best chance to get back into the postseason picture. (St. Petersburg Times) The Times' John Romano, however, tells Tampa Bay fans -- however few there may be -- not to get their hopes up, because history isn't on their side.

WE TAKE OUR JOY WHERE WE CAN GET IT: The Tampa Tribune points out that Rays' left fielders are outperforming Carl Crawford this year. Well, yeah, but who isn't?

ENJOY THE PRESENT, BECAUSE THE FUTURE BELONGS TO US: The Tribune also notes that the Rays are well-positioned going forward because of their pitching surplus.

NOT SURPRISING, SINCE MOST OF THEIR BEST PLAYERS ARE SITTING ON THE BENCH IN BOSTON: The PawSox lost the opener of their playoff series to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. (pawsox.com)

WHY, IN MY TIME . . . Never thought I'd hear Bill Lee waxing poetic about the good old days and railing about how the world's gone to hell in a handbasket, but here you go. (nesn.com)

EVERETT ARRESTED: In sad but unsurprising news, troubled ex-Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett has been arrested on domestic-violence charges. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

ELIGIBILITY RULES: There's been quite the Should-Justin-Verlander-Be-The-MVP? debate raging on local talk radio, and foxsports.com's Tracy Ringolsby says the answer is an unequivocal yes. Or at least he says Verlander should absolutely be considered . . . which undercuts the "Pitchers Aren't As Important As Everyday PlayersPitchers Have Their Own Award" argument.

OLD FRIENDS: Chris Narveson -- he was part of the haul in the Byung-Hyun Kim deal, remember? -- pitched well for a while before the roof caved in on him and the Brewers in a 7-2 loss to the Phillies in what could an NLCS preview (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . Jason Bay, showing signs of life, drove in five runs in a doubleheader against the Braves, but the Mets lost both games (New York Daily News) . . . David Ross homered and drove in two runs in one of those games, continuing what has been a fine year for him as the Braves' backup catcher. (Rotoworld)

AND FINALLY . . . Leave it to our old friend Repoz to discover both a picture of Tony La Russa playing maracas for Carlos Santana, and the fact that Joe Morgan (the Hall of Famer, not Walpole Joe) will be leading the world's largest chicken dance (or, as the proud sponsors call it, the World's Largest Chicken Dance) next Saturday. (baseballthinkfactory.org)

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.