First Pitch: Thursday, September 1

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First Pitch: Thursday, September 1

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First 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 Wednesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

HAVING A BLAST: Tuesday night's fireworks were all well and good, but Wednesday night's were more to the Red Sox' taste.

The Sox got three two-run homers -- from David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and, of all people, Jason Varitek -- in pounding out a 9-5 win over the Yankees (csnne.com) that put their A.L. East lead back to 1 12 games and assured them that, no matter what, they'll still be in first place when New York leaves town tonight. More importantly, it was a night when all the wrongs from Tuesday were righted (csnne.com), not the least of which was a little calming of the roiled waters by David Ortiz. (cbssports.com) It also was a night that, once again, exposed the Yankees' rotation woes (New York Daily News) -- and if you think that was bad, just wait a few hours (New York Post) -- and showed off one of the Red Sox' anticipated October strengths. (Boston Herald)

And they even managed to play it in under four hours. No wonder we all feel like Charlie Sheen (youtube.com) this morning.

YEAH, RIGHT: John Lackey was adamant he didn't hit Francisco Cervelli on purpose Tuesday, but apparently the MLB powers-that-be didn't believe him. (weei.com) Really, who did?

FIXES NEEDED: Tony Massarotti points out the Red Sox still have some problems as September dawns. (boston.com)

FIXES ATTEMPTED: One of them is finding a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can, you know, actually hit. (Nothing personal, there, Darnell McDonald.) Toward that end, the Sox beat the midnight deadline to acquire players and have them eligible for the postseason by picking up Conor Jackson from the A's. (csnne.com)

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: This came hours after Theo Epstein told reporters it was unlikely the Sox would do anything on the trade front. Epstein also discussed Ryan Kalish's season-ending neck surgery and the recent signings of Trever Miller and Joey Gathright, while tapdancing around the question of whether or not he'd be interested in becoming GM of the Cubs. (csnne.com)

CONSECUTIVE-GAME STREAK ENDS AT ONE: It looks like J.D. Drew's comeback is on hold. (csnne.com) Insert your own joke here.

LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DID IT: There was a rare Mo Vaughn sighting at Fenway on Wednesday (Providence Journal), and he came bearing advice on how to hit at home for David Ortiz . . . even though Ortiz has been with the Red Sox longer (1,261 games) than Vaughn (1,046).

ON THE MATT: The second of Jessica Camerato's 1-2-3 Inning features on Red Sox relievers focuses on Matt Albers. (csnne.com)

WINNING A LOSING GAME: FoxSports' JonPaul Morosi looks at five teams that improved themselves during the August waiver trading deadline period . . . and one of them was the Rangers, a potential Red Sox playoff opponent. But ESPN's David Schoenfield shows why the trade deadline "rarely is the cure for a team's ailments". (Or, to put it another way: Do the names Carlos Beltran and Ubaldo Jiminez ring a bell?)

OLD FRIENDS: Jason Bay celebrated the news that the Mets may shift him to center field next year (!) with a three-hit performance in New York's 3-2 win over the Marlins (New York Daily News) . . . Derek Lowe not only held the Nationals to one run on three hits over six innings, he also hit his first career home run on a night when he got the win and Craig Kimbrel broke the rookie saves record (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . Victor Martinez hasn't caught since Aug. 4 because of a sprained left knee (rotoworld) . . . Jeremy Hermida's journey around the major leagues has a new destination: San Diego. He was claimed on waivers from the Reds by the Padres (signonsandiego.com) . . . It looks like shoulder surgery is in Hanley Ramirez' future (Palm Beach Post)

AND FINALLY . . . Did a moth change the course of the A.L. East race?? (AP via si.com)

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

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Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.