McAdam: Don't over-hype this weekend

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McAdam: Don't over-hype this weekend

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
This was supposed to be the start of Something Big - a three-game weekend series between the Red Sox and Yankees to decide supremacy in the American League East, and, by, extension, the entire American League.

It is, of course, no such thing.

Instead, it's a three-game set that will help determine seeding for the playoffs, and little more.

Barring a completely unforeseen collapse by either the Red Sox or Yankees, both teams will be in the playoffs. Before Friday night, both teams were on pace to win 99 games.

This isn't like last year, when the East was a crowded, three-team race and one team was going to end up on the outside looking in.

This season, the Tampa Bay Rays, winner of the division in two of the last three years, are 10 games behind both teams. The next-closest wild-card contender -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - were nine games back in the loss column.

So Friday night and the rest of this weekend -- and the three games at the end of August here and the three games on the final weekend of the season -- are about playoff positioning.

One of these teams will win the division; the other will be the American League wild-card. One will have home field advantage in the Division Series and the other won't.

That's it.

That doesn't remotely qualify as a pennant race. A pennant race has something tangible at stake. Like, win or go home.

This? This is more like, win or forfeit home field advantage. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

Last September, the Yankees and Rays were in a race for the division that went right down to the final day of the season. And neither team showed the least bit of interest in the outcome.

With a chance to win the division and secure home field advantage, whom did the Yankees send to the mound for Game 162? The immortal Dustin Mosley.

Baseball has only itself to blame for this state of indifference. While the wild card has sustained interest in more cities late in the season and generally been a positive development, it is not without its flaws.

Scenarios like this year and last expose its inherent shortcomings. When MLB has two or more teams battling for the wild card spot, it offers great September drama.

When the wild card serves as a consolation prize, however, the drama is erased and what we're left with is a fake race with artificial emotion.

Chances are, if the two teams are still neck-and-neck on the final weekend of September, they'll be more interested in first-round opponents than division titles.

If winning the division means having to beat Detroit's Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series, then you'll really see some disinterest. All of a sudden, the AL East crown will be a booby prize that no one truly wants.

If, as speculated, MLB expands its playoff field for next fall with the addition of another wild card team in each league, it will be an opportunity to correct the problem.

By offering all three division winners a first-round bye -- with the two wild card teams squaring off for the right to advance - some incentive will finally be in place.

Until then, it's mere window dressing, building toward nothing more than a Kyle Weiland-Ivan Nova duel in Game No. 159.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.