First Pitch: Friday, September 23

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First Pitch: Friday, September 23

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

YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN: With the Yankees having clinched and the Rangers about to, the Red Sox' best weapon in September -- opponents who'll beat your wild-card competitors for you -- is about to disappear.

Sean McAdam makes the excellent point that both the Yankees (who have three games left with the Rays) and Rangers (three left with the Angels) will probably spend the final week resting their regulars and getting their pitching set up for the playoffs. (csnne.com) So the Sox really can't count on any help from the outside; if they're going to make the playoffs, they're going to have to do it themselves.

The players think they can. (csnne.com)

Don't know that the rest of us share that optimis, though.

AND IF THEY DON'T . . . it's possible David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon have played their last games at Fenway Park as members of the Red Sox. (csnne.com)

THEY MAY NOT BE THE ONLY ONES: In something of a shock, Peter Gammons -- who should know -- says Terry Francona could managing for his job in this last week. (csnne.com)

NOT SO FAST: The Sox did get some help last night, from the Blue Jays. They knocked off the Angels, pushing LA of A three games back in the loss column in the wild-card race. (ESPN Los Angeles)

None in New York, though, as the Rays -- getting a frighteningly good start from Matt Moore (St. Petersburg Times) -- crushed the Yankees (Tampa Tribune) and remain two back in the loss column.

STAT OF THE DAY? TRY STAT OF ALL TIME: With all due respect to my friends Tony Massarotti and Damon Amendolara, here's a number that sums up the Red Sox' September predictament better than anything I've seen:

Since Sept. 1, the Sox are 1-16 when scoring 11 runs or less. (csnne.com)

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: And Peter Abraham examines the pitching that made such a mind-bending statistic possible. (Boston Globe)

HOLD ON, THERE'S MORE TO IT THAN THAT: John Tomase agrees the pitching's been atrocious, but says other areas of the team have collapsed, as well. (Boston Herald)

THINGS ARE SO BAD . . . that we're even turning on Sweet Caroline. (csnne.com)

EVEN SO . . . Baseball Prospectus says the Sox have a 91.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. (csnne.com)

SAVE US! But Dan Shaughnessy is urging Bud Selig to ban the Red Sox from the postseason. (Boston Globe)

THE BEST DEALS ARE THE ONES YOU DON'T MAKE: The Red Sox tried to get Chris Capuano from the Mets to bolster their shattered starting staff (csnne.com), but couldn't come to an agreement with New York. If how he pitched Thursday is any indication, be thankful. (New York Post)

Of course, that's what we say now. Let's see how we feel when Andrew Miller or Kyle Weiland or (gasp) John Lackey goes up against the Yankees on Sunday.

AT LEAST THERE'S THAT: No matter what happens the rest of the way, you'll be happy to know Tom Werner says things are going well in Liverpool. (epltalk.com)

SO THAT'S HOW IT FEELS: Johnny Damon says the Rays watched the Red Sox' "angst" when they won three out of four up in Boston last weekend, then experienced it themselves when they came to New York and lost three out of four. (New York Post)

WE'RE NOT CRAZY ABOUT YOU EITHER, PAL: Out of nowhere, Russell Martin -- who, as Matthew Pouliot points out, would be in Boston if Theo Epstein had offered him an extra million last winter -- declares that he "hates the Red Sox" and "anything to get the Red Sox of the playoffs would be awesome with me." (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

VOTE FOR ME!! You don't hear his name mentioned in the discussions -- nor should you -- but Robinson Cano is pushing himself for American League MVP. (ESPN New York)

ISSUES OF THEIR OWN: George King lists 10 things concerning the Yankees heading into the postseason. (New York Post)

AND FINALLY . . . 'Moneyball' hits the theatres today, and gets a thumb's up from both Joe Posnanski (si.com) and Roger Ebert. (rogerebert.com)

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.