First Pitch: Wednesday, September 21

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First Pitch: Wednesday, September 21

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

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

FALL IS HERE: It started off as a fun night. Sure didn't end like one, though. (Both stories csnne.com)

The Red Sox starting pitching has been historically horrendous this month -- and Erik Bedard did nothing to reverse that trend -- but last night it was Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon wearing the goat's horns (csnne.com) in a gruesome 7-5 defeat to the Orioles that makes it, let's see, 15 losses in the last 20. (Fun stat of the day: The Sox haven't won two in a row in 22 games, their longest stretch since the Daddy Butch Era in 1994.) They didn't lose any ground in the wild-card race -- more on that in a moment -- but if their starters can't keep them in games at the beginning, and if their two most dependable relievers can't nail things down at the end, then their only chance of making the playoffs is if the Rays (and Angels) lose all the rest of their games from here on in.

You may not think that's possible. But 20 games ago, who would have thought this was possible?

THE REAL THING: The Red Sox' collapse, says Tom Verducci, is no fluke. (si.com)

CAN YOU GET OUT THERE TOMORROW? Yeah, he hasn't pitched since the end of June and his only competitive work -- if you can call it that -- was a simulated inning against the Joey Gathrights of the world on Tuesday. (csnne.com) But, really, can Clay Buchholz be any worse than what the Red Sox are rolling out there now?

I'm kidding. Kind of.

AND BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL DYING TO KNOW WHAT I THINK . . . Curt Schilling weighed in on the Sox' chances yesterday (weei.com), and he's no more optimistic than the rest of us. Terry Francona ignored him. (csnne.com)

LOVE THOSE YANKS: The Red Sox, however, remain a game ahead (in the loss column) in the wild-card race because their new BFFs, the Yankees, beat the Rays, 5-0. (Tampa Tribune) Tampa Bay, however, doesn't seem too upset about the missed opportunity. (St. Petersburg Times)

THE BAD NEWS: The Red Sox' implosion means the Yankees -- who, by the way, are only six games over .500 (24-18) over their last 42, but have been the grateful beneficiaries of Boston's largesse -- are now on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. (New York Post) Once they do, you can be sure their top priority will be getting ready for the postseason . . . and since they have six more games (counting today's doubleheader) against Tampa Bay, it won't help the Sox if they're playing it like the final week of spring training.

I'M LOVING IT: Johnny Damon just can't stop smiling about Red Sox fans being forced to root for the Yankees. (New York Post) Neither can noted Yankee fan Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News.

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Yankee fans are reveling in the Red Sox' misery (csnne.com), but The Star-Ledger's Mike Vorkunov says they should realize the Yanks would be much better off facing the crumbling Sox in the ALCS instead of the surging Rays.

BESIDES . . . The Yanks' pitching -- while certainly better than the Red Sox' (which is saying absolutely nothing) -- still has to be cause for concern heading into October. (foxsports.com)

IN OTHER NEWS: The Mets apparently have come to their senses and will shorten the distance to the walls at Citi Field. (New York Post)

OLD FRIENDS: Adrian Beltre has hit safely in 16 of 17 games since coming off the DL (rotoworld.com) . . . It sure doesn't look as if Brad Penny will be on the Tigers' postseason roster (Detroit News) . . . Anibal Sanchez should sue the Marlins for non-support (Miami Herald) . . . The original A-Gon, Alex Gonzalez, may be sidelined for a bit (mlb.com) . . . Anthony Rizzo will play winter ball (Twitter) . . . Those 44 home runs he's allowed? They don't bother Bronson Arroyo. (cincinnati.com)

AND FINALLY . . . Why would someone steal the glasses off Ernie Harwell's statue?? (csnne.com)

Tanguay: I would give up Mookie Betts for Chris Sale

Tanguay: I would give up Mookie Betts for Chris Sale

Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson debate whether they would include Mookie Betts in a trade to get Chris Sale, or if the Boston Red Sox are better with Betts staying despite needing help in their rotation.

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

While some reports nationally have the Red Sox in search of a dramatic deal in the run-up to next Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski hardly sounded like someone seeking a blockbuster to improve his club.

"I'm not necessarily looking to make something significant,'' said Dombrowski, ''because we've already added. We have five solid starters. Could they be better? If we have five All-Stars, we're better. But we have five guys we like. Our offense is the best in baseball as far as run production is concerned. Could we better? Sure. Will we be open-minded? Sure. But I don't see that there's a driving force (to do something).''

Certainly, there seem to be plenty of interested trade partners, as Dombrowski revealed that on Monday alone, the Sox received five different trade proposals that they hadn't received before.

"So that's why this time is year is interesting,'' said Dombrowski. "We also have some very good young players in our organization, so some teams are looking for those players. And I can say we're not close to making any trades right now.''

If the Sox have an area of weakness at this point, it's the bullpen, thanks to a season-ending injury to Carson Smith, a long-term injury for Koji Uehara and the current DL stint for closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I think our bullpen will be fine,'' Dombrowski predicted. "We're dealing with a tough situation, for the simple fact that we've had a lot of injuries. (Junichi) Tazawa's up and he's back and pretty much getting to the point where he can get back to his normal routine. Kimbrel threw the ball very well today; I wouldn't be surprised if he joined us relatively soon.

"So all of a sudden, you've got (Matt) Barnes, (Brad) Ziegler, we brought up (Joe) Kelly, (Robbie) Ross has thrown the ball very well for us. Can it be better? Sure. You listen to anything at this point. But. . . I know people keep saying 'They've got to add somebody, they've gotta add somebody.' But they forget that we're getting Kimbrel back and we just got Tazawa back.

"You look at it and if those two guys weren't back. My answer would be yes, we need to do something. But I think we're more in a position where we're open-minded but it's not a necessity.''

Some teams have called on Clay Buchholz, currently relegated to a mop-up role in the bullpen. But Dombrowski said Buchholz still has value to the Sox.

"He's real good protection for us (in the rotation),'' he said. "I thought he threw the ball the other day as well as I've seen him throw it all year. And I know, if you just looked at the stats, you'd say, 'He didn't do very well.' Unfortunately, we missed a couple of balls that were catchable. I thought his stuff was outstanding so he's got a place to help us.''