The Red Sox, for all reasonable intents, fell out of contention when they lost two of three at Tampa Bay last weekend. No, they were not mathematically eliminated and still aren't. But way too many smart people at 4 Yawkey Way to think otherwise.
The Baseball Prospectus guys crunch the numbers every day and the Sox started today with a 2.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. There's a better chance that I win the Pulitzer Prize.
• Clay Buchholz is scheduled to throw on three days' rest against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. He cannot remember ever doing that and if he did, it was in high school. This would be the same Clay Buchholz the organization has treated with extraordinary caution since he signed. Taking a risk with a 26-year-old future ace so you can maybe finish six games out in the wild card instead of seven seems unnecessary.
• Daniel Bard was used with the Sox down 3-1 in the eighth inning on Saturday night. It was the first time all season he had been worked in a game when the Sox were behind. Bard has thrown 65 innings this season, one-third of an inning less then he did all last season. He is third in the AL in relief innings and tied for fifth in appearances.
• Jonathan Papelbon today was asked to get a five-out save for the first time since last season. He ended up throwing a career-high 48 pitches. Not shockingly, only 29 of them were strikes. In part, Papelbon needed to get five outs because Bard was used for only two outs in the seventh. Seems he had pitched on Saturday.
I agree with the notion that modern pitchers are babied to their detriment. But the first week of September is probably not the time to try and change that.
Today's 7-5 loss was ugly, but we've seen it before. Papelbon has seven blown saves this season, so that he couldn't get five outs wasn't exactly a stunner.
What's bothersome is the inattention to detail. Josh Beckett and Bard had errors in the seventh inning that led to two unearned runs. Sox pitchers have 19 errors this season, the most in the majors. Less golf and more defensive drills in Fort Myers, perhaps?
The Sox monitor how often their pitchers throw in the spring and often simulate throws during drills instead of actually making them. I'm sure there's good science behind that. But they have a bunch of guys who can't throw to bases or field bunts.
Beckett threw away a pickoff throw and Bard tried an off-balance throw to first after he failed to come up with a one-hopper back to the mound. It skipped away from Mike Lowell.
Then in the ninth inning, Papelbon failed to cover second when the center fielder, shortstop and second baseman converged on a shallow pop that fell in. Carlos Quentin, the tying run, took second and eventually scored on a single.
“He got caught watching. Everybody’s going after it and he needs to get back to second,” Terry Francona said. “That ends up being huge.”
Papelbon dismissed that comment, saying Quentin would have been safe anyway. Regardless, you're supposed to play the game correctly.
Then came a memorable sequence. Papelbon walked Alexi Ramirez. Dustin Richardson walked Mark Teahen. Robert Manuel walked Gordon Beckham. Then Manuel walked Juen Pierre.
Four walks by three different pitchers with the score tied in the ninth inning. That's hard to do.
Manuel and Richardson never expected to be in that game. Manuel, who is known for his control, couldn't remember walking two batters in a row.
Tough spot for those guys, eh Pap?
“No, I don’t feel for them,” he said. “Their job is to come in and try and get outs like everybody else.”
That's six losses in the last eight games for the Red Sox. They're in third place in the wild card behind the Rays and now the White Sox. Chicago had not swept a series in Boston since 1991. The Sox won 84 games that season.
Right about now, they might sign up for that.