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 Wednesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).
CHECKLIST:Let's see. They can't win when putrid starting pitchingputs them in an early hole from which they can't escape.
Theycan't win when they take a lead into the late innings and hand the ballto their most trusted relievers.
And now we discoverthey can't win whenthey hand their ace a 4-1 lead after five innings, or a 4-2 lead aftersix. (csnne.com)
More and more,that little joke we made yesterday is looking like an absolute truth:The only way the Red Sox will make the playoffs is if the Rays (and nowthe Angels, as well) lose all the rest of their games, because the Soxthemselves apparently plan on going0-for-infinity.
Not that it isn't a possibility, aswe'll see in a moment (at least as far as the Rays are concerned), butas strategies go . . . well, I've seen better.
Lastnight's goat wasJosh Beckett (csnne.com), who did it differently than hisrotation brethren -- he actually got out of the third inning -- butcouldn't hold a comfortable, late-inning lead against an awful opponenton a night when his team absolutely, positively needed him to step up.It was just thelatest in a series of pitching failures (Boston Herald) that havemade the Sox a national laughingstock and placed them on the precipiceof an historic September collapse. Ex-Sox GM Dan Duquette concurs,saying, "Ifthey don't make the playoffs, it's pretty clear why they didn't: It'sbecause of the pitching." (weei.com)
There's a little more to it than that -- assi.com's JoeLemire points out, thestreaky Sox' offense has scored 66 runs in the team's 5 wins thismonth, and 56 runs in the 16 losses -- but good pitching canwipe out a variety of ills. What the Red Sox have been getting thismonth barely resembles pitching, at least not of the major leaguevariety.
Which explains quite a bit about what'shappening now.
BEEN THERE: Orioles coach Willie Randolph wasmanager of the Mets when they blew a huge lead in 2007, and heknows what Terry Francona is going through. (ProvidenceJournal)
DONE THAT: Red Sox fans traditionally wouldblame the manager during bad times, but two championships seemed toinoculate Francona from that kind of criticism. Notanymore, says Tony Massarotti. (boston.com)
AND THAT: Controversy alsoseems to rear its ugly head during stretches like this, but JasonVaritek nipped one of them right in the bud. (BostonHerald)
GIVE ME SOMETHING, ANYTHING TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT:Well . . . ClayBuchholz may pitch this weekend. (csnne.com)
'YOU FEEL LUCKY': And whynot? The Rays have lost three straight to the Yankees andonly lost half-a-game in the standings. (St. PetersburgTimes)
LET'S GET REAL, SHALL WE? Ken Rosenthal saysthat, while you have to admire their spunk, the Rays -- as the Yankeesare demonstrating -- don't have the talent to be in the postseason andthe Red Sox "shouldbe embarrassed that the wild-card race is even close."(foxsports.com)
I think theyare, Ken. I think they are.
GUESS WHAT: The Rays aren'tthe only team in the Sox' rear-view mirror. (espn.com)
EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE: Yes, the Yankees helpedout the Red Sox by beating the Rays last night . . . but theyclinched the A.L. East in the process. (New York Daily News) Itcertainly madethem happy. (New YorkPost) JorgePosada, especially. (New York Post)
ONE MAN'S FLOOR IS ANOTHER MAN'S CEILING:Old friend David Pinto thinks the Yankees' division titleis BrianCashman and Joe Girardi's finest hour. (baseballmusings.com)
SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY:Cashman, incidentally, says one of the reasons for theYankees' resurgence from their mid-2000s doldrums is that hestudied the Red Sox and copied the 'Moneyball'-style tactics of TheoEpstein. (si.com)
MISERY LOVES COMPANY: Don'tfeel bad; theRed Sox aren't the only ones collapsing. (baseballmusings.com)
OLD FRIENDS: Derek Lowefinally came through for the Braves, butit didn't help (mlb.com) . . . After all that talk about histhreatening the record for home runs allowed, wouldn't you know that BronsonArroyo would go out and pitcha shutout (rotoworld.com) . . . There'd be no 'Moneyball'withoutBill James (si.com). But that would be fine with ChrisRusso . . .
AND FINALLY . . . who showswhy theycall him The Mad Dog. (siriusxmsports.com)