Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

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Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

BOSTON -- The Red Sox finished with the best record in the American League, at 97-65, tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. For their accomplishment, they will have home field advantage throughout the postseason, and will face the winner of Wednesday’s one-game wild card playoff, either the Rays or Indians, on Friday in Game 1 of their AL Division Series at Fenway Park.
 
“I think more than anything, we’ve put ourselves in a very good position and that’s over a course of 162,” manager John Farrell said. “Our guys have earned that. We’re in a little bit different format because of the number of days off. It’s rewarding for all of us to say we won a division and we’ve been able to maintain home field advantage. Those are two things, that I think as we begin this postseason, sit well with us. I know by Friday this group will be chomping at the bit to get in the field.”
 
In addition to four days of rest, the Sox’ accomplishment  also means they are the last team in baseaball to know who their Division Series opponent will be.  Farrell was asked if there are any disadvantages to that.
 
“None that I can state right now,” Farrell said. “Only because I know that amount of scouting work we’ve done on every team that was in contention is not going to change because we’re going to find out [Wednesday] night. We’ve got meetings scheduled for Thursday morning and that would encompass any team that we’re going to play. The fact that’s not going to be determined until [Wednesday] night, we’re more than prepared to shift according to who it is.”
 
Farrell has not announced his roster or Game 1 starter yet, preferring to get through today’s workout and simulated game before making any information public. The Sox’ opponent may have an impact on those decisions to some degree.
 
“There’ll be some of that involved,” Farrell said, “but the one thing that I want to be clear at is that we’ve set a pretty clear approach to how we’ve used all of our position players throughout the course of the regular season. To make a drastic shift from that  I don’t know that that would be putting guys in the best position to succeed.
 
“So, this is a team that we’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve pinch-hit before, or we’ll use a pinch-runner, we’ve demonstrated that. So to say that we’ll look to do something completely different because we’ve got a five-game series with two offdays in it, I think that would be running from what our strengths have been established all year.”
 
Farrell, like his staff and players, will be watching tonight’s game, just as he has watched playoff games in the past.
 
“Every year, yeah,” he said. “Even those years when you’re on the outside looking in, personally I have a strong interest in the game. You like to see how things unfold and what decisions are made based on certain things that come up in a game. You think along the game as it’s happening even though you might not be there.”
 
The Red Sox will all be watching tonight’s game, but with a different perspective than most viewers.
 
“There won’t be any fan in me pulling for either team,” said Jake Peavy, “I was talking to my father about this, the way I watched the game [Monday] night [between the Rays and Rangers] was so different than he and my mother and brother and everybody else. I’m watching pitch sequences, and how guys are setting up and what guys are trying to do in certain situations. And that’s certainly the way I think we’ll all watch the game [Wednesday] night, with an idea that we’re going to face one of those teams. I’m going to face those hitters that I’m watching. So I’ll watch it a lot like I do homework tapes.”
 
“I’m in a good situation to where I can watch it,” said Jonny Gomes. “It doesn’t matter who wins. It’s not like baseball-sized tears at the end of the game. Just watch it as a fan. And they got 162 games under their belt too. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel [tonight]. So just watch the game as a fan.”
 
Neither the manager of any of his players expressed a preference for who they might face in their Division Series. In six meetings between the Rays and Indians, Tampa Bay won four, going 2-1 both at home and at Cleveland. The Sox finished 6-1 against the Indians, but have not faced them since May, when they were a much different team. The Sox finished 12-7 against the Rays, 6-4 at Fenway, 6-3 at Tropicana Field, and know Tampa Bay as well as any team.
 
A scout who has followed both the Rays and Indians gave his thoughts on the potential matchups:
 
“I think if Cleveland plays Boston, I don’t think Cleveland will match up well at all. I think Boston will kill them," the scout said. "Cleveland’s bullpen is really weak right now. If Boston plays Tampa, because of familiarity I think Tampa has a legitimate shot at staying competitive. However, I still see Boston winning either series rather handily. For me, right now as an outsider, I would have to say Boston is a clear-cut favorite to win  the whole thing.”

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?