McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

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McAdam: Sox want health over playoff positioning

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- All things considered -- and frankly, there isn't much to go on yet except the team's say-so -- the Red Sox emerged from the Josh Beckett vigil pretty well.

Team doctors determined that Beckett is merely suffering from an ankle sprain, and not, as had been feared in a worst-case scenario, some tendon or ligament damage.

The hope in the organization is that this is all relatively minor and that Beckett will miss only one start. Given that the Red Sox had already planned to give him an extra day between his next two scheduled starts, that's a relatively rosy scenario.

(Disclaimer: the Red Sox issued no statements about the severity of the sprain itself. A minor sprain would mean being sidelined for a week or so. A more significant sprain could end up costing Beckett more time, as it has for San Francisco lefty Jonathan Sanchez.)

Again, though, let's assume that Beckett's sprain is relatively minor in nature and that he'll return to the rotation well before the post-season.

Under that scenario, the Red Sox will have their top two starters available for the Division Series. The prospect of trying to win a World Series with Jon Lester, augemented by the likes of Erik Bedard and John Lackey, was not promising.

But it's possible that the uncertaintly surrounding Beckett, the team's desire to manage his return with caution, and the fact that just 21 games remain on the schedule that the team's hope of overtaking the New York Yankees for the A.L. East crown is in serious jeopardy.

At least twice in the next week, the Red Sox will send out lesser starting pitchers when Beckett's and Bedard's turn come around.

Kyle Weiland will be plugged in for a spot start Saturday and it's likely that Tim Wakefield -- who goes for elusive career win No. 200 Wednesday night -- will get another turn that he might not have received otherwise when the Sox return home from their current six-game homestand.

The Sox trail the Yankees by 2 12 games in the East with 21 games (22 for the Yankees), and though a tie (record) would go to the Sox, by virtue of winning the season series between the two, the chase is decidedly uphill for the Sox.

The three remaining games between the clubs are in New York, where the Sox are 5-1 this year. Still, that's an advantage for the Yankees.

It's quite possible that the dropoff from Bedard and Beckett to Weiland and Wakefield (or Alfredo Aceves or anyone else the Sox choose for those spot starts) could mean the difference of a game or two in the standings.

The Sox have, all along, professed a strong preference for getting their pitching staff in order over finishing first in the division, so don't expect them to be re-arranging the rotation in final week to win games and edge out the Yankees.

Moreover, it's likely that the matter of playoff seeding could be entirely up in the air in the final week. For much of the season, it was widely assumed that Texas would finish with a better record than Detroit, and thus, host the wild-card entry in the ALDS.

But heading into Wednesday's games, the Rangers' lead over the Tigers were just a half-game. So while the Red Sox' half-hearted quest for first could well go down to the final days, so, too, could the identity of their first-round opponent. It's tough to devise a strategy to face a certain team over the other when the other teams in question are involved in some jockeying of their own.

Opening on the road may not be as problematic for the Red Sox at it could be for others. The Sox own the best road record in the majors.

Now, like it or not, it would seem they're going to put that success to the test, starting in the Division Series.

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

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.