McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

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McAdam: Sox go from bad to worse

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

CLEVELAND -- Slumping teams need to catch a break occasionally. But the way the Red Sox are going in the first week of 2011, they seem incapable of either making their own good luck, or knowing what to do with it when they get some.

Case in point: the sixth inning of Wednesday's 8-4 debacle at Progressive Field.

It was bad enough that Dennys Reyes, making his fourth appearance in the first five games, couldn't find the strike zone. He threw 12 pitches, and 11 for were balls. Of the three hitters he faced, two were hit by pitch and the third was walked.

Walked while he was trying to get a bunt down. Walked while he was trying to, quite literally, give the Red Sox an out.

Then, things went from bad to downright bizarre.

Dan Wheeler, on in relief of Reyes, got Michael Brantley to hit a liner right at -- more or less -- third baseman Kevin Youkils.

That's when the craziness began.

"It's one of those plays where, if you catch the ball, it's bases loaded still," recounted Youkilis. "You try that play a lot of times where you drop the ball on purpose. Sometimes it works. Usually they call it a dead ball. But right there, we almost had it worked out."

Like teammate J.D. Drew, who last year couldn't quite make up his mind on whether to catch a ball in foul territory or let it drop with a runner on third, Youkilis seemed to be indecisive.

At first, Youkilis thought he would drop the liner intentionally. But as the ball began to tail to his glove side as it got closer, Youkilis was caught in between. The ball -- intentionally or not -- fell out of his glove, creating chaos everywhere.

Youkilis scooped up the ball a few feet away and stepped on third base, creating a force play on Matt LaPorta, advancing to third. He then fired home to Jason Varitek, who was waiting to make a play on Travis Buck, the Cleveland runner breaking from third.

One problem: Varitek didn't see that Youkilis had stepped on the third-base bag, thus taking the force off a home. When Youkilis's throw arrived, Varitek merely stepped on home plate, thinking he had recorded an out.

In fact, he hadn't. Buck continued and crossed the plate, giving the Indians a two-run cushion.

"I didn't yell to Varitek to tag Buck," said Youkilis. "I guess Adrian Gonzalez was yelling at him from first base, but it was loud and all that, because the play was kind of crazy. It was just one of those things where it didn't work out."

"Obviously, I had no idea Youkilis had stepped on third," said Varitek. "I'm still trying to learn that one right now. I should have gone ahead and tagged him also. We were trying to secure an out and get the one out at the plate, but the way the ball richoched and where it was, I just never saw it. It was totally my fault.

"It's probably the weirdest play I've ever been a part of. I'm trying to learn what what I could have done different, besides, obviously, tagging him. But I didn't actually see the play."

Things then snowballed. Wheeler threw a sinker to Asdrubal Cabrera, about where he wanted it, but Cabrera went down and drove it out to right for a back-breaking, morale-sapping three run homer.

From down by a run when the inning began, the Sox were suddenly trailing by five, with another loss as their pennance.

"We've had a lot of different things happen," said Varitek in a bit of understatement.

Indeed, starting pitching was the culprit in the first two losses, with the punchless offense to blame for the next two.

Wednesday night, it was poor bullpen work and an uncharacteristic flubby one of the team's most fundamentally sound players.

One bad inning, one more bad loss. One they could hardly afford.

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

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

BOSTON - The Red Sox knew they'd be in the playoffs last weekend when they clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2013.

On Wednesday, they became division champs and knew they'd avoided the dreaded wild-card game.

ANALYSIS: Nick Friar looks at potential Red Sox-Indians matchup

They still don't know their first-round opponent, though it's becoming increasingly likely that it will be the Cleveland Indians.

Here's why: the Red Sox' loss to the Yankees on Thursday night leaves them with a 92-67 record with three games remaining, the second-best mark -- for now -- among the three A.L. division winners.

The Texas Rangers, at 94-65, retain the best record, with the Indians, at 91-67, a half-game behind the Sox.

The team with the best record of the three will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and will be matched against the winner of Tuesday's A.L. wild-card matchup.

To finish with the A.L.'s best record and host the wild-card winner, the Red Sox essentially need to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays on the final weekend and hope that the Rangers get swept by Tampa Bay.

That's because a tie between the Red Sox and Rangers in the standings would make the Rangers the top seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker: intra-division play.

(The first tie-breaker is head-to-head play; the Sox and Rangers split the season series, sending them to the second tie-breaker).

In other words, the Rangers have a magic number of one to clinch the best record in the A.L. and gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason. One more Red Sox loss or one more Rangers win would get the Rangers locked into the top spot.

Again, barring a sweep by the Sox and the Rangers getting swept, a matchup in the Division Series with Cleveland seems almost inevitable.

What's not known is where that series will begin, and here's where it gets tricky.

Because the Indians and Detroit Tigers were rained out Thursday, the Tribe will have played only 161 games by the time the regular season ends early Sunday evening.

That could force the Indians and Tigers to play a makeup game on Monday, since the game could have playoff seeding implications for the Indians and Tigers. Detroit is still in the running for the A.L. wild card spot, currently a game-and-a-half behind the Orioles and Jays.

Since the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians 4-2, the Sox can clinch home field by winning two-of-three games from Toronto this weekend.

Should the Sox win two from the Jays, it would wipe out the need for Monday's makeup -- at least as far as the Indians are concerned. It's possible that it would still need to be played to determine the one of the wild card spots.

No matter who wins home field in a likely Red Sox-Indians matchup, the Division Series between the two will start with games next Thursday and Friday. After a travel day, the series would resume Sunday and Monday, Oct. 9-10.

Should the Sox win home field and host the first two games, Game 3 would be played Sunday Oct. 9 in Cleveland -- on the same day and in the same city where Tom Brady will make his return to the Patriots.