First Pitch: Wednesday, September 28

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First Pitch: Wednesday, September 28

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).

ONE MAN'S HEAVEN IS ANOTHER MAN'S HELL: Sure glad someone's enjoying this. (cbssports.com)

Last night ended just as it began, with the Red Sox and Rays tied for the wild-card lead. But it took 3 12 hours of drama and torture (espn.com) that -- if the Sox weren't staring down the barrel of historical infamy -- would probably enthrall us just as much as it does the rest of the baseball world. (Well, maybe some -- like John Tomase of the Boston Herald -- can appreciate it.) But for many, like me, it's sort of an acid flashback (Boston Globe) that I'd just as soon do without, thanks.

Anyway, the Sox beat the Orioles (csnne.com), 8-7, thanks in large part to Ryan Lavarnway (csnne.com) and Alfredo Aceves (csnne.com). (And if you had them in the "late season Red Sox heroes" pool, go buy a bunch of lottery tickets because your luck is, as they say in Twitter-verse, trending.) It kept them tied with Tampa Bay, which choked off a bases-loaded, no-out Yankee rally by turning a fifth-inning triple play (cbssports.com) to keep New York's lead at 3-2, then benefitted from Matt Joyce obeying his father's orders (St. Petersburg Times) in pulling out a 5-3 win. (Tampa Tribune) And, to quote the headline on the St. Petersburg Times' Gary Shelton's column, Tampa Bay's season of wonder goes down to the wire.

So does the Red Sox' season of . . . hmm. What? Something less than wonder, that's for sure.

SO NOW WHAT? Since the Yankees truly don't give a damn, (New York Daily News) it's safe to assume David Price and the Rays will beat whatever group of minor-league meatball artists the all-we-care-about-is-the-playoffs Yankees send to the mound tonight. That leaves it up to Jon Lester, pitching on three days' rest, and the Red Sox to force a Thursday play-in game at Tropicana Field. The starting times are out for both that game and the first game of the ALDS. (csnne.com)

Question is, will the Red Sox be involved in either?

WHAT'S THE POINT? Sean McAdam thinks it might not make a difference (csnne.com), because even if they win they'll have used up so much of their dependable pitching to get there that they'll be easy pickings for whoever the play in the ALDS.

HERE'S THE POINT: Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald says the Sox need to win and get to the postseason to erase the stench of the last month.

AND TO GET TO THE POINT . . . the desperate-for-pitching Sox may even turn to Clay Buchholz tonight. (csnne.com)
YOU COULD KNOCK ME OVER WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER: He loves Terry Francona and, based on his unhappy parting with the Red Sox, we can assume he's not Theo Epstein's biggest fan. So I can't say I'm shocked to see how Curt Schilling divvies up the blame for all this. (csnne.com)
SELF-PRESERVATION: Joe Biden's a member of Red Sox Nation these days, but his motives are strictly selfish. (boston.com)

LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE: When you've done your job and clinched your playoff berth when you should have, as the Yankees did, these are the kind of things you worry about at season's end. (cutoffman.mlbblogs.com)

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: It took them an extra day, but the Braves have also squandered their huge wild-card lead. They were clobbered by the Phillies last night (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and the Cardinals beat the Astros (St. Louis Post Dispatch), meaning Atlanta and St. Louis -- like Boston and Tampa Bay -- are tied going into the regular season's final day.

ADIOS, OZZIE: "He came in loud, brash and cocky before the 2004 season. It was only fitting that Ozzie Guillen went out the same way." So writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on the news that Ozzie Guillen is leaving the White Sox to (probably) manage the Marlins. As my friend Bill Reynolds would say: Ozzie, they didn't make two of you.

AND FINALLY . . . Bill James turns movie critic and gives a thumb's up to 'Moneyball'. (ljworld.com)

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

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McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

For a Red Sox team that has been the best in baseball in September and had won 11 straight prior to last night, you have to admit: There are a lot of things that could go the other way with this team in the playoffs that wouldn't surprise you.

To wit:

-- Would it surprise you if David Price blew up again in the postseason? He has a 5.12 career postseason ERA and has never won a playoff start. Was last night a precursor? He looked like his old shaky October self with a chance to clinch the division in Yankee Stadium.

-- Would it surprise you if Clay Buchholz crapped his pants when it mattered most? This is your No. 3 starter, folks, or No. 4 at worst. He's getting the ball in the playoffs either way, and if I told you that two months ago you'd tell me the Sox are sunk. He looks good now, but we all know he is the ultimate tease.

-- Would it surprise you if John Farrell blows a game with a bone-headed decision from the bench? Of course not; he's been doing that for nearly four years. Yes, he did it all the way to a title in 2013, but the possibility remains very real. It's in the back of most everyone's mind.

-- Would it surprise you if Koji Uehara regresses and the eighth inning once again becomes a problem? Uehara certainly has the experience and has pitched well recently, but the fact is that it feels like his arm is attached by a noodle.

-- Would it surprise you if some of the Sox' youth shows its age? It shouldn't. Happens all the time. Would it surprise you if Craig Kimbrel can't find the plate in a big save situation? It shouldn't. He's shown glimpses of it all season and has never pitched past the division series in his career. Would it surprise you if Hanley Ramirez makes an important mistake at first? Or the Sox' hole at third becomes a factor? Nope and nope.

We could play this game all night.

Now, what do I think is going to happen? I think the Sox are going to pitch well, even Price, and the offense will remain a force. I have full faith in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Rick Porcello and the lineup in general. There's a feeling on this team that's hard to ignore, likely inspired by Ortiz, and I think they'll keep it going in the postseason. I agree with those who say the Sox have the most talent in the American League, so that's a great place to start. I don't know if that means the ALCS, the World Series or a championship. I just think they'll continue to play well into October.

But all of that is just a feeling, just a prediction -- and you know what those are good for. The point is this: If it goes the other way for the Sox, I think we already have the reasons why.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.