Tag:Playoff race: AL East
Posted on: September 20, 2011 7:00 pm

Francona bats away Schilling comments

SchillingBy Evan Brunell

Curt Schilling told WEEI Tuesday morning and said he doesn't think the Red Sox will make the playoffs, adding that there has been a significant momentum shift that now falls in the Rays' favor.

“It’s kind of crashing down around them,” Schilling added. “Somebody asked me last night about them making the playoffs and I said, ‘You know how I feel about these guys, you know how I feel about [manager Terry Francona] … I don’t want them to make the playoffs because I don’t think they have a chance to go anywhere.’”

Well, Francona has a response to Schilling, even though he did not hear his former ace's (photo: 2007) comments until being told.

"I don’t give a [expletive]," he said.

Francona didn't have much else to add, but Schilling did. He took to Twitter to deflect criticism, saying, "What I think, not what I want. I want them to get in and win it all, if they need someone like me motivating that's an entirely diff chat."

Francona also addressed David Ortiz's remarks that it was time to convert Alfredo Aceves to a starter. Aceves has served as a long reliever for the Red Sox the entire year and has been incredibly successful in doing so. As the Red Sox rotation stands in tatters, the call for Aceves to make some starts is growing.

"Believe it or not, I haven’t read a paper," said Francona. "There’s so many [media members] here that if you ask questions and someone gives an answer, I’ll be answering them all day. For Schill and for David, I’d rather just do the game."

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 6:19 pm

Buchholz tosses simulated inning, eyes return

BuchholzBy Evan Brunell

Clay Buchholz took the next step towards returning to the Red Sox pitching staff by throwing to hitters for the first time since hitting the disabled list on June 16, WEEI reports.

"Location wasn’t what it should be, which is expected, but ball's coming out of my hand and no problem with the back. It feels good," Buchholz said. "[There was] no pain. Everything was fine. Trying to not compensate for anything and finish my delivery like I normally would."

Buchholz has been sidelined since June with a balky back and the team has missed him severely. His 3.48 ERA in 14 starts would be much welcome for a team that has struggled to fill the gap behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, but if Buchholz returns, it will be as a reliever, and may not even get into a game during the regular season. Buchholz doesn't mind either way, but hopes he can contribute in October at a minimum.

"That’s the team’s call if they want me to come back, get some innings in [against Baltimore]. Gotta see how this postseason run is going to be and go from there," said Buchholz. "[Pitching in the playoffs is] what I want to do. Today was a first step in that direction and everything felt good."

The righty threw 25 warmup pitches in the bullpen then simulated an inning against Jose Iglesias, Lars Anderson, Ryan Lavarnway and Joey Gathright, throwing 32 pitches in all. He said he was throwing at 85 to 90 percent intensity, afraid of harming a hitter. The Red Sox likely prefer that Buchholz doesn't go max effort in his first time throwing to hitters anyways. He was able to throw all his pitches which includea fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter.

His next simulated game could come on Thursday or Friday in New York provided his body responds well to Tuesday's outing. He believes that as long as his back holds up, he can make an impact in the postseason despite his arm being sidelined from game action for three months.

"I’ve been throwing pretty much the whole time, playing catch, not necessarily pitching. My arm doesn’t feel near as not ready as it does in the offseason going into spring training," said Buchholz. "Obviously, nobody wants to sit out two and a half months, three months. It’s been tough watching the guys go out there. Even when we’re playing good, I want to go out there. It’s tough right now. like I said, I’m trying to get to the point where I can come back and help this team win."

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 5:47 pm

Josh Beckett throws good side session

BeckettBy Evan Brunell

Josh Beckett's side session in the bullpen on Monday went well, ESPN's Buster Olney writes.

The team is eager to get Beckett back in the rotation, which has been smacked hard as of late due to injuries and poor results. Beckett who has been the team's ace all season, has posted a 2.49 ERA in 27 starts. He left a game against Toronto on Sept. 5 with an ankle sprain and hasn't pitched since.

The Red Sox are hopeful he can get back into the rotation this upcoming weekend against Tampa Bay, which just finished sweeping Boston to move to 3 1/2 games behind. The Rays start a four-game series in Boston on Thursday.

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:27 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:43 pm

Red Sox GM says bring on the Rays

Theo EpsteinBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Boston's David Ortiz says it's time to panic, but general manager Theo Epstein said he welcomes playing the Rays four more times over the season's last two weeks.

Appearing on Boston's WEEI, Epstein said the team is struggling, but it's an opportunity to turn it around. But if they don't do it, they don't deserve to be in the playoffs.

From WEEI.com:

"I'm glad we play the Rays four times coming up. If we can't right the ship against these guys, if we can't do what we need to do, we probably don't deserve to get into the postseason," Epstein said. "As much as this looks like a crisis from the outside and obviously has not been fun on the inside, this is an opportunity. If we are what we think we are, to quote somebody else, then this is a great opportunity for us to go play well for 2½ weeks, ride some momentum into the postseason and be the team that we were for four months, the best team in baseball over four months. We have to go do that."

Epstein also touches on John Lackey (it's "frustrating"), Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew (he has a broken finger), Clay Buchholz's rehab (he may pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs) and any possible moves the team can make in the last couple of weeks of the season, but the Cubs are not brought up.

In the excitement that notes the Rays have four more games against the Red Sox, it should be noted they have seven more games against the Yankees, as well -- and despite some delusional daydreams by fanboys, the Yankees aren't going to just lay down to screw over the Red Sox. 

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 6:50 pm

Beckett hopes to return by end of next week

BecketBy Evan Brunell

Josh Beckett believes he can start by the end of next week as he recovers from a sprained right ankle that knocked him out of his Sept. 5 start, he told the Boston Globe.

The righty's next step in rehabbing his ankle is to throw off a mound, which could happen as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, followed by starting a game three days later. Currently, Beckett is long-tossing, reaching 120 feet on Saturday and later threw an assortment of pitches on flat ground.

"I wanted to see how it feels pushing off," Beckett explained as to why he pitched from flat ground. That’s the really big issue, my body weight on it pushing. It feels a lot better today. Two days ago it was pretty rough."

Beckett's injury, which he originally thought could have been a torn Achilles tendon, further explained that the joint itself was sprained, not any ligaments as a traditional sprained ankle covers. The fluid in the joint is causing a pinching sensation. (By the way, the article reveals that in middle school, one of Beckett's ligaments was severed. Ouch.)  But now, Beckett is ready to get back on the mound.

“It’s not my decision,’’ he said. “I think the trainers got to be comfortable with where I’m at. I don’t see it being too, too much longer," he said. "That sounds reasonable. But like I said, it’s not my decision. Obviously they’re going to have my input. I’m ready to come back when everybody feels good."

The Red Sox really need Beckett at full health, because right now the only pitcher capable of starting in October for Boston is Jon Lester. Beckett and Erik Bedard are both hobbled with injuries while Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield are ineffective. Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for the year after Tommy John surgery, while Clay Buchholz is scrambling to rehab in time for the postseason after being knocked out in mid-June. Beckett, for his part, feels as if he'll be ready but admits to being concerned.

"I'm hoping that this isn't a question mark," Beckett said. "It needs to be 100 percent or at least close to 100 percent whenever I come back because it makes everyone look foolish if you go back out there and hurt it five pitches in. I don’t think we’re going to do that. We’re going to test it off the mound first and figure things out.’’

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Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:05 am

Playoff race: Rays can decide AL East

By C. Trent Rosecrans

OK, so the Yankees and Red Sox are both going to make the playoffs -- but the pennant chase in 2011 has slim pickings, so we're going to look at this race to start the playoffs at home against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

New York Yankees
Record: 87-55
20 games remaining: 8 home, 12 road
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .503
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 73.3 percent
Coolstandings.com expectancy of playoff berth: 99.7 percent

Boston Red Sox
Record: 85-58, 2.5 games behind New York
19 games remaining: 10 home, 9 road
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .516
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 26.6 percent
Coolstandings.com expectancy of playoff berth: 98 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 78-64, 9 games behind New York, 6.5 games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race
20 games remaining: 9 home, 11 road
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .527
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 0.1 percent
Coolstandings.com expectancy of playoff berth: 2 percent

Playoff race

At this point of the season, a push is a win for the leaders, and in this case it's the Yankees, who remain 2.5 games up on the Red Sox. 

New York and Boston both lost on Thursday, with the Yankees dropping a make-up game in Baltimore before heading out west to face the Angels and Mariners, while Boston heads to Tampa Bay for the first of seven more games against the Rays. 

Not only do the Rays have a a full week's worth of games remaining against the Red Sox, they also have seven games remaining against the Yankees -- including a doubleheader on Sept. 21 and three games at Tropicana Field to end the season. Even if Tampa Bay doesn't make the playoffs -- and let's be honest, the chances are slim it will -- the Rays will have a say in which team wins the division and which team is off to Texas to start the playoffs against the Rangers.

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Posted on: September 6, 2011 3:56 pm

Yankees pulling away in AL East division race


By Evan Brunell

Here's a breakdown of the AL East race with all data through Sept. 5 games.

New York Yankees
Record: 86-53
23 games remaining: 13 road, 10 home
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .495
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 73.9 percent

Boston Red Sox
Record: 84-56, 2.5 games back
22 games remaining: 12 road, 10 home
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .500
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 26 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 77-63, 9 games back
21 games remaining: 10 road, 11 home
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .558
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 0.1 percent

Playoff race

The Red Sox were in first mere days ago but after dropping two of three to New York, the Sox have proceeded to drop three of their next four games, and New York has taken advantage by jumping out to a 2 1/2 game lead. Both teams are pretty evenly matched, so the Yankees are in pole position to take the division (again) as they play the just one more game than Boston the rest of the way with a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way. This is still plenty of a race with both teams having three more games the rest of the way. And despite the slightly tougher schedule, Boston wraps up the year with seven games against the Orioles sandwiched between the Yankee series, so don't count them out just yet.

The Rays are 9 1/2 games behind first place so don't deserve to be listed here, but they are very much so a part of the AL wild card race at just 7 games behind the Red Sox. Tampa has been playing well, but has a brutal stretch coming up with seven games against Boston and six against the Yankees. Bear with us for a second -- if they somehow run the table in that stretch, they could very well walk away with the division title -- and would almost certainly take the wild card. At the very least, the Rays can play spoiler and knock the Yanks or Sox out of the division chase. That 0.1 percent expectancy of a division title shows the club has a long road ahead if it wants to pull off a miracle. But here's the thing: It can happen.

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Photo: Can Jon Lester, the only healthy and producing starter in the rotation, keep Boston in the hunt?

Posted on: September 6, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 2:38 pm

Jeter is different player since 3,000th hit

JeterBy Evan Brunell

Since getting his 3,000th hit on July 9, Derek Jeter has been a different man. Skipper Joe Girardi believes that isn't an accident.

"I've said all along, I don't think I realized the pressure he was under to get those 3,000 hits," Girardi said to MLB.com. "Everything in his career, he's always handled with such grace and been able to relax in the big moment. But since he's gotten past [3,000], he's been a different player."

Jeter has hit .354/.404/.477, including his 5-for 5 day that netted hit No. 3,000 after slogging through a down 2010 season and kicking off 2011 with a pedestrian .257/.321/.329 figure. Clearly, though, he's rediscovered his power and has been able to see more balls fall in for hits. While his overall line of .297/.354/.389 pales in comparison to previous numbers, it's still an highly-encouraging bounce-back season for the shortstop, who has two years remaining on his deal.

Jeter said on Sunday that he is staying back at the plate more, which he attributes to his resurgence. I'm sure that's true, but you can't overlook finally getting hit No. 3,000 as another reason why. After the milestone, Jeter admitted that it had been weighing on him more than expected.

Is Jeter as good as his line indicates since July 9? No. Sorry to break it to you, but that Jeter is dead and buried at age 38, just like Jeter wasn't as bad as his line up to July 9 indicated. After all, if the 3,000th hit was to blame for Jeter's struggles, how do you explain 2009? No, let's not turn a hot streak into a sentimental story.

But Jeter can still contribute value with the bat, even at the tender age of 37. No one knows what the next two years will bring, but odds are that Jeter will be able to hold down a starting spot without too much difficulty, even if he isn't the offensive force he once was. But he doesn't need to be.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com