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.

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

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First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

First Impressions from the Boston Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels

* John Farrell faced a tough call with Steven Wright in the sixth.

Wright doesn't fare well in wet weather, as the Red Sox learned earlier this season when he tried to pitch in a steady rain against Houston. With a downpour, Wright wasn't able to grip his signature knuckler, and the results showed.

In the fifth and into the sixth, the rain was picking up. By the start of the sixth, the rain intensified, and Wright began to struggle. He allowed a leadoff double to Albert Pujols, hit Jefry Marte and walked Daniel Nava to load the bases.

Farrell had Matt Barnes warming, but the manager was clearly trying to get his starter through the sixth and limit the bullpen workload, having gone to the pen in the third inning Monday and the seventh inning Wednesday.

The move backfired when C.J. Cron hit a grand slam. Wright has been terrific this season, but his inability to pitch when there's any rain at all creates a unique challenge for his manager.

* Brock Holt made his presence felt right away.

Holt missed more than a month with a concussion, and admitted before Friday's game that he still wasn't 100 percent recovered.

But that hardly seemed the case Friday night. In the field, Holt fielded a line drive in the corer by C.J. Cron and fired a strike to second, cutting down Cron attempting to stretch a single into a double.

At the plate, meanwhile, Holt clubbed two doubles to left.

Holt used that same inside-out swing both times to take pitches the other way, expertly using the Wall and Fenway to his advantage.

For the past week, the Red Sox were shuffling a few outfielders, none of whom had had much experience -- or success -- at the big league level. Even if he's not 100 percent and can't be counted on every day yet, Holt could provide a nice jolt to the bottom third of the order.

* Ortiz continues to pile up records.

His solo homer in the fifth - a line shot that curled past the right field foul pole, into the box seats -- was No. 522 of his career. That enabled Ortiz to move past three Hall of Famers: Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams -- with one swing.

Ortiz had been tied with the trio in 19th place for most career homers.

The homer also marked his 2,000th hit with the Red Sox. He became the seventh player to amass 2,000 hits in a Red Sox uniform. The others: Williams,  Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Bobby Doerr and Wade Boggs.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

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O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

BOSTON - Sean O'Sullivan -- and not Aaron Wilkerson -- is the Red Sox choice for Sunday's plug-in starter as the Sox search for a temporary replacement for Eduardo Rodriguez's spot in their starting rotation.
      
"That was the recommendation,'' said John Farrell of the choice to go with  O'Sullivan. "Granted, Wilkerson's been throwing the ball well there. But the recommendation was for Sean to come back here and pitch on Sunday.''
      
O'Sullivan made two starts earlier this season, allowing four runs in six innings to the New York Yankees on May 10 before being battered for six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings against Houston five days later.
      
Overall, O'Sullivan is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Pawsox this season.
      
Wilkerson, who was pitching in independent ball just two years ago, is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in eight appearances -- seven starts -- at Pawtucket.
      
O'Sullivan's stay with the Red Sox is expcted to be brief, since the Red Sox can through next week and first 10 days of the second half without a fifth starter.
      
"It's likely that spot will come up just once,'' confirmed Farrell. "With next Thursday's off-day, we've got a chance to make sure that [Rick] Porcello and [David] Price get on the mound before the break and that's the direction we're leaining in right now.''