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

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

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McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss the Red Sox bullpen giving up a 4-run lead in the late innings of their loss to the Blue Jays.

Watch the video above.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

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Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win.