McAdam: Red Sox soap opera continues for now

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McAdam: Red Sox soap opera continues for now

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTMIORE -- Over the weekend, forced to address reports of a "disconnect'' between himself and his manager, Theo Epstein, on more than one occasion, declared that his team was not, in fact, a "soap opera.''

Despite some evidence to the contrary, Epstein is correct.

But this season itself? Cue the theme music from "The Young and the Restless.''

The Red Sox are going down to the final game of the regular season -- and very likely, beyond -- to determine whether they qualify for the postseason.

Such a scenario would have, of course, been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, when the focus was on who would start Game 3 of the ALDS.

And now? The Red Sox haven't said who would start a play-in game at Tampa Bay Thursday afternoon, and one of the reasons they're putting off any sort of announcement is because they're still casting about for a potential trade acquistion to make the start.

This would give "short-term rental'' a new meaning. No fewer than three club sources on Tuesday night offered variations on "highly unlikely'' when asked about the chances of a deal being made to obtain a starter for Game No. 163.

But the very fact that the notion was still being batted around tells how strange this season -- and in particular, the last month -- has been.

In the span of about seven months the Red Sox have gone from having an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pitching to just plain embarrassing.

Tim Wakefield couldn't crack the rotation at the start of the year, but for the last two months, he's been part of the regular five-man crew. Kyle Weiland probably didn't expect to make five regular season starts for a team with designs on a championship -- especially when he began his season at Double A.

And in anticipation of a play-in game, the Sox are desperately in search of an alternative to one of their own, whom they paid 82.5 million and who, not long ago, enjoyed a reputation as one of the most dependable "big game'' pitchers in the business.

Consider, too, that the Red Sox have been caught from behind by a team which is 16-10 for the month of September.

If the Rays had gone on one of those torrid, nothing-can-stop-us runs like the Colorado Rockies in 2007 and again in 2009, that would have been perfectly understandable.

Sometimes, teams play .750 ball down the stretch and overtake a team which has dipped to, say, .500 or less in the final weeks, victims of some injuries or fatigue or disinterest -- or a combination of all three.

But 16-10 is not exactly a team with a mission, some unstoppable force. Being caught from behind by a team playing six games over .500 for the month may not be unprecedented, but is sure is rare.

It's the equivalent of being lapped on the track by a tortoise. But the Sox have been so bad, so inept, that they have not only invited the Rays into the playoff party, they have held the door open for them.

A win Wednesday night likely guarantees the Red Sox nothing but a one-day trip to Tampa for a play-in game, meaning that the same team which has not won back-to-back games since the final week of August -- think about that -- now must
win three games in a row just to make the postseason.

That same postseason berth seemed a layup a month ago, one that wouldn't require last-minute heroics from the team's third-string catcher; that wouldn't involve a desperate, scrambling, never-been-done before deal to find a pitcher from outside the organization for the 163rd game of the season.

A week ago, the one word I kept hearing repeatedly from fans was "disgust.'' The shoddy play of the Red Sox, coupled with their cliff-dive in the standings, turned people off to the degree that they not only didn't care about the playoff battle, they were openly rooting for them to fail.

In the last week, between the 14-inning win Sunday night in New York and Ryan Lavarnway's cameo right out of The Natural, that's changed. People, I suspect, are hooked again. They can't turn away. They need to watch to see what happens next, follow it to its logical conclusion, see how the story ends.

And isn't that, really, the very embodiment of a soap opera?

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

Wednesday's Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Second try at clinching A.L. East

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Second try at clinching A.L. East

The Red Sox try again to nail down the A.L. East crown tonight, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against the Yankees while needed just one victory -- or one Toronto defeat -- to clinch the division.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Brock Holt 3B
Andrew Benintendi LF
Sandy Leon C
----
Clay Buchholz P

YANKEES:
Brett Gardner LF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Gary Sanchez C
Brian McCann DH
Starlin Castro 2B
Didi Gregorious SS
Mark Texeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Mason Williams RF
----
Bryan Mitchell P

 

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.”