First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31

First Pitch: Wednesday, August 31
August 31, 2011, 9:11 am

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 Tuesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThat Happened (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

VILLAIN BORN, RIVALRY RENEWED: So as it turns out, all it took to light a spark under the somnolent Red Sox-Yankee tong war was some exuberant handclapping.

That was how Francisco Cervelli celebrated upon completing his rounding of the bases after a fifth-inning moonshot over the Monster Seats. John Lackey took exception to it, and off we went. Lackey drilled Cervelli in the back with the first pitch of Cervelli's next at-bat, words were exchanged, benches were cleared, and, says John Tomase of the Boston Herald, it brought back memories of the old days. It wasn't quite Fisk-Munson, Nettles-Lee, Varitek-Rodriguez or Zimmer-Martinez (or, if you really want to go back, Martin-Piersall or Cronin-Powell), but it was more emotion than we've seen from these two teams in a while.

CC Sabathia was a little upset (ESPN New York), Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild (who has his own history of beanball battles with the Red Sox) was ejected, and all in all it was pretty entertaining. Much more entertaining than the four-hour bore-a-thon of a game, which ended with the Red Sox -- who, as Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe notes incredulously, managed to parlay 13 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen into two whole runs -- stranding 16 runners and losing, 5-2 (csnne.com), cutting their A.L. East lead over New York to one-half game.

It's hard to get worked up over the series -- though Joe Girardi seems to think it's important (cbssports.com) -- for a number of reasons. First, both teams are all but guaranteed to make the postseason. Second, both the pitching matchups for the next two nights and the schedule the rest of the way favor the Red Sox, so one loss to New York isn't going to send the region into a pre-2004 tizzy. But baseball's always more fun when there's a little edge to Red Sox-Yankees, and now we seem to have it back.

For a night, anyway.

KING ME: Baseball, tiddlywinks, checkers . . . no matter the competition, Larry Lucchino wants to beat the Yankees. (mlb.com)

I YAM WHAT I YAM: Cervelli, who swore up and down he wasn't trying to show anybody up, had a simple explanation for his outburst: "That's Cervelli." (weei.com)

DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE TO LIKE IT: And Lackey, who swore up and down he didn't hit Cervelli on purpose, said he thought the handclaps were "a little excessive, honestly". (csnne.com)

MR. BIG: He'd gone 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox in his first four appearances against them this year, so anything would seem good by comparison. Thus, Sabathia's six-inning, 128-pitch grind was described by Mike Lupica of the Daily News as "tremendous, even though all his numbers weren't". ESPN's David Schoenfield doesn't think that 0-4, 7.20 means much of anything (too small a sample size) and wasn't willing to go as far as Lupica, but agrees that good pitchers know how to get outs when they need them "and Sabathia got them on this night".

WAKE UP: Peter Abraham swims against the tide of Red Sox Nation by disagreeing with the notion that Tim Wakefield should be lifted from the rotation. (Boston Globe) The Sox may have taken the first step in that direction, though, when they skipped over his start this weekend against Texas.

COMEBACK KIDS: J.D. Drew went 3-for-3 and Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 in a rehab game with the PawSox in Rochester (Providence Journal), and both should return to the Red Sox' lineup by the end of the week.

COMEBACK KID: Clay Buchholz, meanwhile, started his long road to recovery with 25 throws from 60 feet. (csnne.com) In other words, don't expect to see him for a while . . . if at all this season.

AROUND THE A.L. EAST: Looks like Andy MacPhail, who was hired in 2007 to turn around the Orioles, is about to admit defeat and walk away. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com) His departure, along with the Cubs' opening, could start an interesting game of GM musical chairs this offseason . . . Joe Maddon says the Rays have to "will" themselves to win when the opposing pitcher is on his game, but the will wasn't strong enough in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers (St. Petersburg Times) . . . Somebody claimed B.J. Upton on waivers last week (Tampa Tribune), but Maddon says it was a "procedural" thing and Tampa Bay had no intention of trading him.

TOUGH CHOICE: Today is the deadline for teams to add players to their roster and have them eligible for the postseason. The Rangers -- a potential playoff opponent for the Red Sox -- admit they have interest in the Cardinals' Lance Berkman (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), who would make an already formidable lineup even tougher. But if the Cards hope to trade Berkman and then bring him back as a free agent over the winter, Berkman says forget it; once he's gone, he's gone. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) And that may make the Cards, who'd like to retain him, less willing to make the deal.

BEATING THE HEAT: Red Sox nemesis C.J. Wilson has found a way to stay cool in the kiln-like Texas atmosphere. (ESPN Dallas)

OLD FRIENDS: It was a tough night for Bronson Arroyo (Rotoworld) . . . Hanley Ramirez' comeback is on hold after he felt discomfort in his left shoulder during a rehab game. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

THINK THEY WOULDN'T NOTICE? If you're making 80,000 a year, like this former Giants' employee, you probably don't want to embezzle 1,513,836.28 from the club because it might raise a red flag when you try to get a loan from a bank to buy a house. (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

AND FINALLY . . . In true, "Why in my day" fashion, 80-year-old Moose Skowron proposes an old-fashioned solution to a new-fangled problem. (Chicago Tribune)