McAdam: Don't over-hype this weekend

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McAdam: Don't over-hype this weekend

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
This was supposed to be the start of Something Big - a three-game weekend series between the Red Sox and Yankees to decide supremacy in the American League East, and, by, extension, the entire American League.

It is, of course, no such thing.

Instead, it's a three-game set that will help determine seeding for the playoffs, and little more.

Barring a completely unforeseen collapse by either the Red Sox or Yankees, both teams will be in the playoffs. Before Friday night, both teams were on pace to win 99 games.

This isn't like last year, when the East was a crowded, three-team race and one team was going to end up on the outside looking in.

This season, the Tampa Bay Rays, winner of the division in two of the last three years, are 10 games behind both teams. The next-closest wild-card contender -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - were nine games back in the loss column.

So Friday night and the rest of this weekend -- and the three games at the end of August here and the three games on the final weekend of the season -- are about playoff positioning.

One of these teams will win the division; the other will be the American League wild-card. One will have home field advantage in the Division Series and the other won't.

That's it.

That doesn't remotely qualify as a pennant race. A pennant race has something tangible at stake. Like, win or go home.

This? This is more like, win or forfeit home field advantage. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

Last September, the Yankees and Rays were in a race for the division that went right down to the final day of the season. And neither team showed the least bit of interest in the outcome.

With a chance to win the division and secure home field advantage, whom did the Yankees send to the mound for Game 162? The immortal Dustin Mosley.

Baseball has only itself to blame for this state of indifference. While the wild card has sustained interest in more cities late in the season and generally been a positive development, it is not without its flaws.

Scenarios like this year and last expose its inherent shortcomings. When MLB has two or more teams battling for the wild card spot, it offers great September drama.

When the wild card serves as a consolation prize, however, the drama is erased and what we're left with is a fake race with artificial emotion.

Chances are, if the two teams are still neck-and-neck on the final weekend of September, they'll be more interested in first-round opponents than division titles.

If winning the division means having to beat Detroit's Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series, then you'll really see some disinterest. All of a sudden, the AL East crown will be a booby prize that no one truly wants.

If, as speculated, MLB expands its playoff field for next fall with the addition of another wild card team in each league, it will be an opportunity to correct the problem.

By offering all three division winners a first-round bye -- with the two wild card teams squaring off for the right to advance - some incentive will finally be in place.

Until then, it's mere window dressing, building toward nothing more than a Kyle Weiland-Ivan Nova duel in Game No. 159.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Lou Merloni talks about the Red Sox losing 6 out of the last 7 games and if David Price should have stayed in the game for the 9th inning.