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 Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).
MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: If you live in central Florida, well, these are glorious times. (St. Petersburg Times)
Up here? Not so much. (boston.com)
The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race -- once so substantial that barely anyone knew just how big it was, since nobody was looking at it -- is down to three in the loss column after Sunday's embarrassing 9-1 loss to the Rays (csnne.com), their third straight at The Trop and fifth in a row overall. The Yankees had been keeping the Sox in the division hunt with a slump of their own, but that may have ended yesterday. (New York Daily News) Now the focus is solely holding off Tampa Bay, and the Rays have made it clear they're in this for the duration. "I think we're a good enough team to beat those guys," said James Shields, who led Tampa Bay to victory yesterday. (Tampa Tribune)
For their part, the Sox are speaking bravely, too. "We've overcome a lot worse than this," said Jon Lester (csnne.com), though he didn't say when . . . and nothing really leaps to mind. "At the end of the day, we're going to win the wild card or the division," Adrian Gonzalez said flatly (Boston Herald).
Truth be told, Gonzalez is probably right. The Sox are heading home for a 10-game homestand, they don't figure to stumble around like this for 2 12 more weeks -- though it would help if Lester, their lone healthy (good) starter, doesn't continue to come up small when the situation screams for something big (csnne.com) -- and the Rays now head out for 11 straight on the road. But it's not a fait accompli; the Sox are going to have to start playing better. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo thinks Terry Francona has to abandon his low-key approach and turn up the heat, which will certainly be the talk radio strategy of choice over the next few days.
Oh, and those of you bemoaning the lack of pennant races this September? Be careful what you wish for.
WHAT RACE? IT'S OVER! ESPN's David Schoenfield declares the Rays will win the wild card.
SOUND FAMILIAR? The Cardinals swept the Braves this weekend, cutting Atlanta's once-formidable N.L. wild-card lead to 4 12 games. But foxsports.com's Jon Paul Morosi thinks the Sox and Braves with both hold on . . . maybe.
SPEAKING OF TALK RADIO: This will certainly warm the hearts of the "He only won because he had Dan Duquette's players!He only wins because the Red Sox are rich!Renteria! Gagne! Lugo! Drew!" crowd. (Chicago Tribune)
On further reflection, maybe the "Fran-coma" people will be happy, too.
MORE BAD NEWS: An injury is going to force the Rays to take Kyle Farnsworth -- who had the potential to be an embedded weapon for the Sox -- out of the closer's role. (Tampa Tribune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox' season is over. (Providence Journal)
OLD FRIENDS: Anthony Rizzo is in a 2-for-34 slump with the Padres (rotoworld.com) . . . Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, is on a tear (ESPN Dallas) . . . Coco Crisp is hurting. (oakland.athletics.mlb.com)
AND FINALLY . . . Can someone please explain this? At least in a way that doesn't make MLB look even worse than it looks right now? (New York Daily News)