First Pitch: Tuesday, August 30

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First Pitch: Tuesday, August 30

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, a quick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at least the corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapup of Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's And That Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

SHOWDOWN . . . SORT OF: Terry Francona says he wants to win the division title. (Providence Journal) Adrian Gonzalez, on the other hand, merely wants to make sure they make the playoffs (Boston Herald), though you can see why he'd feel that way after all those years in San Diego. Whatever, the Red Sox are rested (csnne.com) and ready for three games against the Yankees at Fenway Park, beginning tonight.

The edge isn't quite as sharp as it might be, since the Sox and Yanks have far and away the two best records in the American League (csnne.com) and, barring a catastrophic collapse, will both be in the postseason one way or the other. Still, it's Red Sox and Yankees with first place on the line in the final quarter of the season. As the man once said, getcha popcorn ready. (nbcsports)

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT: On her Twitter account, NESN's Heidi Watney says Clay Buchholz told her he's been cleared to begin throwing on Tuesday.

SPEAKING OF GONZO (OR, AS TITO CALLS HIM, 'GONZI') . . . he's the A.L. Player of the Week. (csnne.com)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TED: If Ted Williams were alive, he'd be turning 93 today. Bill Chuck of csnne.com's Nation STATion -- who shares his birthday with the Splendid Splinter -- gives us nine things to know about No. 9.

SOLID SECOND: The Red Sox come in at No. 2, behind the Phillies, in the Power Rankings of both ESPN and Hardball Talk.

FACTS, SCHMACTS: After giving a ton of evidence that shows what happens in the regular season between two teams means nothing in the playoffs, the New York Post's Joel Sherman shifts gears and says it's imperative for the Yankees -- who've lost 10 of their first 12 meetings with the Sox this year -- to start beating Boston.

HALF A LOAF: If they're going to start tonight, they'll have to do it without Alex Rodriguez, who's visiting a hand specialist about his left thumb injury. (New York Daily News) But it looks like they'll have Derek Jeter (New York Post), who originally seemed questionable for the series.

HAPPY PLACE: The Yanks come to Fenway in a good frame of mind, having beaten the Orioles in Baltimore Monday night (New York Daily News) and gotten word that the starting time of that unwanted Sept. 8 makeup game has been switched to 1:05 p.m. (New York Daily News)

YOUR ACTIONS BELIE YOUR WORDS: Danny Knobler of cbssportsline.com wants to know why, if this series is so important, the Yankees are starting Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett in two of the games. Actually he thinks he knows why: So they can "figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October".

MAKE THAT FOUR THINGS: Bleacher Report lists five things that need to change for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox in October. Unfortunately for the Yanks, the No. 1 thing on the list is already impossible, because . . .

GIVING UP THE GHOST: It looks like they won't have Pedro Feliciano or Damaso Marte back this season. (mlb.com)

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: The Rays, so excited about pulling within 6 12 games of the Yankees in the wild-card race just a day ago, lost a game in the standings as they fell to the Jays, 7-3 (Tampa Tribune). And now they get to step into the Texas furnace. (Tampa Tribune). Good luck.

OLD FRIENDS: Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 in a rehab start at Triple-A Round Rock (ESPN Dallas) and should be back with the Rangers on Thursday.

WHAT'S NEXT? LOCUSTS? As if things aren't bad enough for the Mets, packs of stray dogs from nearby auto-body shops are roaming the outskirts of CitiField (New York Post), "menacing visitors as they exit the ballpark".

AND FINALLY . . . Please support the annual WEEINESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, which runs today and tomorrow.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.