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)

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Red Sox are coming off a 94-win season and a division title.
     
Their starting rotation is solid, if not without some question marks. The team's core of young position players is the envy of the industry.
     
So, why, then, did Dave Dombrowski make the kind of gamble he did when he shipped arguably the best prospect in baseball and the organization's top pitching prospect to land White Sox lefthander Chris Sale?
     
"I think it's a situation where when you have a chance to win,'' explained Dombrowski, "you want to give yourself every opportunity to do so, if you can improve your club. And for us, this deal improved us.

"I'm not sure, for instance, if we didn't get (Drew) Pomeranz that we would have won our division. But any time you get there, short of just a total giveaway of your system or making moves that don't make us smart, I think you go for it.''
     
Dombrowski noted that most of his acquisitions -- Sale, Pomeranz, David Price, Craig Kimbrel -- are under the team's control for another three years.

"In baseball,'' he said, "four years down the road is an eternity in many ways. So you need to take advantage of that opportunity. Nothing's guaranteed in life; if you make these moves, it doesn't guarantee that you're going to win.
     
"But I think you just keep taking a chance. You keep going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully, it works for you someday.''
     
The moves he's made to date, said Dombrowski, have all made the Red Sox "a little better.''
     
He further noted that with a young core of everyday players and prospects such as Rafael Devers and Sam Travis, "I think we're still strong for many, many years.''