By Art Martone
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.