Boston Red Sox

First Pitch: Wednesday, September 21

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First Pitch: Wednesday, September 21

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

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

FALL IS HERE: It started off as a fun night. Sure didn't end like one, though. (Both stories csnne.com)

The Red Sox starting pitching has been historically horrendous this month -- and Erik Bedard did nothing to reverse that trend -- but last night it was Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon wearing the goat's horns (csnne.com) in a gruesome 7-5 defeat to the Orioles that makes it, let's see, 15 losses in the last 20. (Fun stat of the day: The Sox haven't won two in a row in 22 games, their longest stretch since the Daddy Butch Era in 1994.) They didn't lose any ground in the wild-card race -- more on that in a moment -- but if their starters can't keep them in games at the beginning, and if their two most dependable relievers can't nail things down at the end, then their only chance of making the playoffs is if the Rays (and Angels) lose all the rest of their games from here on in.

You may not think that's possible. But 20 games ago, who would have thought this was possible?

THE REAL THING: The Red Sox' collapse, says Tom Verducci, is no fluke. (si.com)

CAN YOU GET OUT THERE TOMORROW? Yeah, he hasn't pitched since the end of June and his only competitive work -- if you can call it that -- was a simulated inning against the Joey Gathrights of the world on Tuesday. (csnne.com) But, really, can Clay Buchholz be any worse than what the Red Sox are rolling out there now?

I'm kidding. Kind of.

AND BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL DYING TO KNOW WHAT I THINK . . . Curt Schilling weighed in on the Sox' chances yesterday (weei.com), and he's no more optimistic than the rest of us. Terry Francona ignored him. (csnne.com)

LOVE THOSE YANKS: The Red Sox, however, remain a game ahead (in the loss column) in the wild-card race because their new BFFs, the Yankees, beat the Rays, 5-0. (Tampa Tribune) Tampa Bay, however, doesn't seem too upset about the missed opportunity. (St. Petersburg Times)

THE BAD NEWS: The Red Sox' implosion means the Yankees -- who, by the way, are only six games over .500 (24-18) over their last 42, but have been the grateful beneficiaries of Boston's largesse -- are now on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. (New York Post) Once they do, you can be sure their top priority will be getting ready for the postseason . . . and since they have six more games (counting today's doubleheader) against Tampa Bay, it won't help the Sox if they're playing it like the final week of spring training.

I'M LOVING IT: Johnny Damon just can't stop smiling about Red Sox fans being forced to root for the Yankees. (New York Post) Neither can noted Yankee fan Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News.

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Yankee fans are reveling in the Red Sox' misery (csnne.com), but The Star-Ledger's Mike Vorkunov says they should realize the Yanks would be much better off facing the crumbling Sox in the ALCS instead of the surging Rays.

BESIDES . . . The Yanks' pitching -- while certainly better than the Red Sox' (which is saying absolutely nothing) -- still has to be cause for concern heading into October. (foxsports.com)

IN OTHER NEWS: The Mets apparently have come to their senses and will shorten the distance to the walls at Citi Field. (New York Post)

OLD FRIENDS: Adrian Beltre has hit safely in 16 of 17 games since coming off the DL (rotoworld.com) . . . It sure doesn't look as if Brad Penny will be on the Tigers' postseason roster (Detroit News) . . . Anibal Sanchez should sue the Marlins for non-support (Miami Herald) . . . The original A-Gon, Alex Gonzalez, may be sidelined for a bit (mlb.com) . . . Anthony Rizzo will play winter ball (Twitter) . . . Those 44 home runs he's allowed? They don't bother Bronson Arroyo. (cincinnati.com)

AND FINALLY . . . Why would someone steal the glasses off Ernie Harwell's statue?? (csnne.com)

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

MORE:

The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.