Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Thursday, September 22


First Pitch: Thursday, September 22

By ArtMartone

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 Wednesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(

CHECKLIST:Let's see. They can't win when putrid starting pitchingputs them in an early hole from which they can't escape.

Theycan't win when they take a lead into the late innings and hand the ballto their most trusted relievers.

And now we discoverthey can't win whenthey hand their ace a 4-1 lead after five innings, or a 4-2 lead aftersix. (

More and more,that little joke we made yesterday is looking like an absolute truth:The only way the Red Sox will make the playoffs is if the Rays (and nowthe Angels, as well) lose all the rest of their games, because the Soxthemselves apparently plan on going0-for-infinity.

Not that it isn't a possibility, aswe'll see in a moment (at least as far as the Rays are concerned), butas strategies go . . . well, I've seen better.

Lastnight's goat wasJosh Beckett (, who did it differently than hisrotation brethren -- he actually got out of the third inning -- butcouldn't hold a comfortable, late-inning lead against an awful opponenton a night when his team absolutely, positively needed him to step up.It was just thelatest in a series of pitching failures (Boston Herald) that havemade the Sox a national laughingstock and placed them on the precipiceof an historic September collapse. Ex-Sox GM Dan Duquette concurs,saying, "Ifthey don't make the playoffs, it's pretty clear why they didn't: It'sbecause of the pitching." (

There's a little more to it than that --'s JoeLemire points out, thestreaky Sox' offense has scored 66 runs in the team's 5 wins thismonth, and 56 runs in the 16 losses -- but good pitching canwipe out a variety of ills. What the Red Sox have been getting thismonth barely resembles pitching, at least not of the major leaguevariety.

Which explains quite a bit about what'shappening now.

BEEN THERE: Orioles coach Willie Randolph wasmanager of the Mets when they blew a huge lead in 2007, and heknows what Terry Francona is going through. (ProvidenceJournal)

DONE THAT: Red Sox fans traditionally wouldblame the manager during bad times, but two championships seemed toinoculate Francona from that kind of criticism. Notanymore, says Tony Massarotti. (

AND THAT: Controversy alsoseems to rear its ugly head during stretches like this, but JasonVaritek nipped one of them right in the bud. (BostonHerald)

GIVE ME SOMETHING, ANYTHING TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT:Well . . . ClayBuchholz may pitch this weekend. (

'YOU FEEL LUCKY': And whynot? The Rays have lost three straight to the Yankees andonly lost half-a-game in the standings. (St. PetersburgTimes)

LET'S GET REAL, SHALL WE? Ken Rosenthal saysthat, while you have to admire their spunk, the Rays -- as the Yankeesare demonstrating -- don't have the talent to be in the postseason andthe Red Sox "shouldbe embarrassed that the wild-card race is even close."(

I think theyare, Ken. I think they are.

GUESS WHAT: The Rays aren'tthe only team in the Sox' rear-view mirror. (
EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE: Yes, the Yankees helpedout the Red Sox by beating the Rays last night . . . but theyclinched the A.L. East in the process. (New York Daily News) Itcertainly madethem happy. (New YorkPost) JorgePosada, especially. (New York Post)

ONE MAN'S FLOOR IS ANOTHER MAN'S CEILING:Old friend David Pinto thinks the Yankees' division titleis BrianCashman and Joe Girardi's finest hour. (

SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY:Cashman, incidentally, says one of the reasons for theYankees' resurgence from their mid-2000s doldrums is that hestudied the Red Sox and copied the 'Moneyball'-style tactics of TheoEpstein. (

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: Don'tfeel bad; theRed Sox aren't the only ones collapsing. (

OLD FRIENDS: Derek Lowefinally came through for the Braves, butit didn't help ( . . . After all that talk about histhreatening the record for home runs allowed, wouldn't you know that BronsonArroyo would go out and pitcha shutout ( . . . There'd be no 'Moneyball'withoutBill James ( But that would be fine with ChrisRusso . . .
AND FINALLY . . . who showswhy theycall him The Mad Dog. (

A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem


A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, pulling the sport into a polarizing protest movement that has been criticized harshly by President Donald Trump.

Before a home game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland's dugout, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell's shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

"Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally," Maxwell said.

Maxwell's protest comes after Trump blasted football players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.

"That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," Trump said of kneeling through the anthem. He added, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired."

Maxwell informed A's manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst of his intention to kneel before Saturday's game. He also held a team meeting in which he addressed questions from teammates. Maxwell did not play in Oakland's 1-0 win.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting to offer his support.

"I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that's going on in this country right now," Canha said. "I felt like every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today."

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they "respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression" and "pride ourselves on being inclusive."

The league also issued a statement: "Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together."

Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father was stationed there in the Army, but he grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where Trump made his statements at a rally Friday.

"The racism in the South is disgusting," Maxwell said. "It bothers me, and it hits home for me because that's where I'm from. The racism in the South is pretty aggressive, and I dealt with it all the way through my childhood, and my sister went through it. I feel that that's something that needs to be addressed and that needs to be changed."

League executives and star players alike condemned Trump's words on Saturday, and Maxwell predicted on Twitter that athletes would begin kneeling in other sports following "comments like that coming from our president."

A few hours later, he followed through.

"This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!" Maxwell wrote.

Maxwell is decidedly patriotic and comes from a military family. His agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Associated Press that "the Maxwells' love and appreciation for our country is indisputable."

"Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump's response to a number of professional athletes' totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

"Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion."

Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds


Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Red Sox took another step toward a division title, putting up another shutout that ended with a feel-good moment for their manager.

Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and Boston beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding a four-game lead over the Yankees with eight to play. The Red Sox are trying to win back-to-back AL East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. They've got their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

It ended with a ninth inning that was unlike anything manager John Farrell has experienced. His son, Luke, relieved for the Reds, giving them a special moment in a competitive situation.

"It was somewhat surreal," he said. "Very proud. You're standing there looking through a netting in the dugout and you think you're maybe watching him throw back in Little League, in high school. To see it happen on a major league mound -- a special day, a special inning."

The reliever walked two in a scoreless inning and glanced back at the Boston dugout, momentarily removing his cap, as he headed for the Reds dugout.

"There was a little added pressure for me," said Luke Farrell, who like his father wears No. 52. "That's the first time we've been on the same field together. You want to do well for your team."

The last time a manager faced his son as an opposing player was 2004, when the Giants' Felipe Alou went against his son Moises of the Cubs.

"There's a major conflict going on inside," John Farrell said. "You're always pulling for your guys, but that's a unique arrangement there."

The Red Sox got what they wanted, closing in on a title with an offense that's an anomaly in the homer-heavy major leagues. Moreland's shot off Robert Stephenson (5-6) was the 160th by a Red Sox, fewest in the American League.

"That gives us a little breathing room," said Moreland, who broke an 0-for-19 slump with only his second homer in September. "That was nice."

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21, making sure he'll be in the conversation for a prominent postseason role.

He would love a chance to start a playoff game.

"That's going to be the best feeling in the world," he said. "That's what people who have started in the playoffs tell me."

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.


Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi , who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.


The Red Sox are 11-1 against the Reds all-time in their interleague series. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 15-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-14.


The Reds wore green jerseys and caps as part of their day honoring Irish heritage.


The Reds and Red Sox honored pitcher Bronson Arroyo , who is retiring at age 40. He came back from several years of arm problems and made 14 starts for Cincinnati this season before ending his comeback. Tributes on the videoboard included one from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Among his gifts were a customized guitar and guitar case. He performed with a band on the field after the game.


Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts was scratched from the lineup to get treatment on his left foot. He fouled a pitch off it during his second at-bat on Friday night but stayed in the game. It bothered him running on Saturday pregame. ... INF Eduardo Nunez plans to run on Sunday, the next test as he recovers from a sprained knee,

Reds: CF Billy Hamilton broke his left thumb while bunting on Sept. 6 and returned Friday night, getting two hits. He was out of the lineup on Saturday as the Reds ease him back into playing.


Red Sox: Doug Fister (5-8) is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against the Reds.

Reds: Rookie Jackson Stephens (2-0) makes his third career start. He gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings of an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.