First Pitch: Monday, September 19

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First Pitch: Monday, September 19

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 Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

KEEPSMILING: Well, at least DustinPedroia's happy. (csnne.com)

No one else is,though, at least not around here. Not after yesterday's utterlypredictable result (csnne.com) -- what, you actually thought TimWakefield had a chance to beat David Price? -- sliced the Red Sox'wild-card lead to two games and made the odds of what was once (but itno longer) an unthinkable collapse allthe more real. (ESPN) Historic, even? Youbet. (grantland.com)

Sean McAdamsays the Sox arebeing let down by the players who carried them for much of theseason (csnne.com), and that's true. What's also trueis that there's plenty of blame to go around, and Lou Merloni throwssome at Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. (csnne.com) Most disturbing,says Steve Buckley, is that these Sox areflubbing the fundamentals at a time when fundamentals are mostimportant. (BostonHerald)

It's a parallel universe withthe Rays, of course; they saw this weekend as 'abeautiful thing'. (St. Petersburg Times) Now they head to NewYork for the beginning of 7 games in 10 days against the Yankees.What's the best part about that, Johnny Damon?

"RedSox fans are going to have to root for the Yankees," he said, lateradding: "They couldn't root for me when I played for New York. Nowthey have to root for the whole team." (New York DailyNews)

And the hits just keep oncoming.

CANHE WALK THE WALK? The Red Sox close with seven against theOrioles, which gives Buck Showalter achance to back up his preseason trash talk. (ESPN Boston)

OLDFRIENDS: Tough day yesterday for BruceChen and CarlPavano. (both stories rotoworld.com) On second thought, Pavano'sperformance wasn't that bad; he just lost . . . The Reds aren'ttaking Bronson Arroyo out of the rotation just because he'sin range of the record for allowing the most home runs in aseason (CincinnatiEnquirer) . . . There's been a ChrisCarter sighting! (SanFrancisco Chronicle)

AND FINALLY . . . Sorryabout the year Carl Crawford's had? So'she. (ESPNBoston)

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.