McAdam: Sox in trouble even if they make ALDS

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McAdam: Sox in trouble even if they make ALDS

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTIMORE -- It's not over yet, not with the opportunity to win Wednesday night and assure themselves of no worse than a one-game play-in game on Thursday at Tropicana Field, a winner-take-all showdown with the team which finally caught them from behind Monday night.

But the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Monday night at Camden Yards was, in many ways, the most damaging loss of this hideous skid they're experiencing -- and not because it finally wiped out their ever-shrinking lead over Tampa Bay, and not because it was suffered at the hands of a team with absolutely nothing for which to play.

No, Monday's loss was horrific for a more basic reason: it set in motion a truly unappetizing set of scenarios for the rest of the week.

Thanks to the loss, the Red Sox now will have to, one way or another, win Wednesday night, the final game of the season. That means they'll need to pitch Jon Lester in the final game, instead of, say, Kyle Weiland, or Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller or some combination thereof.

No longer is Wednesday a tuneup game, a chance to rest the the regulars and properly arrange the pitching staff for the Division Series.

In turn, it also means that should the Red Sox get to that play-in game Thursday in St. Petersburg, they'll need to start John Lackey to win the most important game of the season.

(In that sense, this is becoming, more and more, like 1978, when the Sox had no choice but to start Mike Torrez, a similarly disappointing free agent acquisition, who, like Lackey, seemed ill-suited for Boston almost from the beginning. And Red Sox fans remember how that turned out.)

If Lackey could give them a start like he offered Sunday night -- three runs in six-plus innings -- that would be one thing. But given how inconsistent he's been and how poor most of his starts have been, that's hardly assured.

Sunday's start, in fact, was only the ninth quality start that Lackey has provided this season. And it's been a while since he pitched two in a row.

Finally, though, the fallout from Monday means that, should the Red Sox win the play-in game and advance to the Division Series, they would have limited options for the series opener.

Assuming that the Sox don't want to have Josh Beckett come back on short (three days) rest, they'll have to choose from among Wakefield and others to start the first game.

In that way, this whole playoff run is beginning to resemble 2005, when the Sox had to go to the final day of the season before clincing the wild card.

Then, because they had to fight to the finish, the rotation was in shambles and the Sox were left with no one else than Matt Clement to open the Division Series with the White Sox.

The Red Sox were summarily swept from the postseason that year without winning so much as a game. Curt Schilling, their best starter, never started a game.

Under that scenario, Beckett wouldn't be available to pitch until Game 2 and Lester held out until Game 3.

Of course, the way Beckett and Lester have pitched in the last month, that may not be as catastrophic as it seems. Together, the Red Sox' Big Two have compiled a 2-5 mark with an ERA of 5.73.

The Sox have won just once in the last six games starter by either.

Piece by piece, the whole Red Sox' blueprint has been rendered obsolete by the performance of the rotation.

Back in June, recall, the Red Sox were going to be a tough out in October because they could trot out three front-line starters: Beckett, Lester and Clay Buchholz.

Then Buchholz was taken out of the equation because of the lower back stress fracture. And eventually, Beckett and Lester stumbled so much down the stretch that it became difficult to imagine the two carrying the team in the postseason.

And, now thanks to the team's unending downward spiral, it all may be moot anyway. The team which hasn't won two games in a row since the last week of August now might have to win three straight just to reach the playoffs -- only to find they're not equipped to survive should they get there.

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

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.