A few Red Sox thoughts after a fun week of watching baseball in California:
• If the Sox are to win the American League East for the first time since 2007, they're going to have to find a way to play better against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Sox have a winning record against the Rays (10-6), Blue Jays (9-7), and Yankees (7-5) but are 4-6 against the Orioles with a whopping nine games to play starting tonight. That's nearly a third of the games they have left.
Baltimore is 27-19 against the Sox the last three seasons.
Red Sox pitchers have a 3.39 earned run average against the Orioles this year. But Red Sox hitters are a paltry .208/.270/.367 against Baltimore. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia are 22 of 114 (.193).
• Jonny Gomes is hitting .234/.342/.426 on the season. But he is at .364/.474/.564 with runners in scoring position, .750/.429/1.500 with the bases loaded, and .409/567/.636 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Granted, we're talking small sample sizes. But Gomes does seem to have a certain knack for big hits this season.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a free agent after the season, is making a compelling case for a multiyear deal. He is fourth in the AL in innings caught and third in WAR at 2.6. Salty wants to stay, too.
Then there's this: The Yankees need a catcher.
• Since he became closer, opposing hitters are 10 of 93 against Koji Uehara with 37 strikeouts.
• Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters over the weekend that he would prefer not to play Carl Crawford more than five or six days in a row because of how often he breaks down physically. The Dodgers also try to keep him away from lefties.
It's hard to say what is more incredible, that the Dodgers took Crawford in the trade or that the Red Sox paid him all that money to begin with.
• Three e-mails arrived in the last 24 hours that were critical of Mike Napoli leaving two buttons on his uniform jersey unbuttoned. Napoli also got criticized on Twitter for the same thing.
Let's review: The Red Sox were a FEMA-level disaster a year ago, a wholly unlikable team bereft of talent and spirit. Now they're in first place, entertaining to watch, and loaded with players who by all accounts are generally decent human beings.
But some people find two undone buttons worthy of a complaint? Napoli has played all season with a degenerative hip condition and now with painful plantar fasciitis. That his uniform is unbuttoned shouldn't be a problem.
• When the schedules for next season come out, pick a time to go to San Francisco and catch a series at AT&T Park. If you plan ahead, you can book a hotel that's a pleasant walk to the park.
There's quite literally not a bad seat in the place, the views are spectacular and the people who work at the park couldn't be friendlier. You'll have a great time.
• Scott Boras has an evil plan that might actually make sense: Sign Jacoby Ellsbury and keep him in center. Play Jackie Bradley Jr. in left. Sign Stephen Drew and keep him at shortstop. Shift Xander Bogaerts to third and play Will Middlebrooks at first.
Boras represents Bogaerts, Bradley, Drew, and Ellsbury, of course.
The guess here is that Ellsbury signs with a team on the West Coast and Bradley plays center next season. If Ellsbury truly wanted to stay, he would have made a deal by now.
Don't blame Boras if that happens. Jered Weaver decided he wanted to stay with the Angels long term in 2011 and directed Boras to make a deal. In the end, agents do what the player tells them. Ellsbury turns 30 in a few weeks. He's not some impressionable kid.
• Sox pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo mentioned on Twitter that he's enrolling back at LSU to finish his degree. That's very commendable.
• In case you missed it, the Padres called up athletic outfielder Rey Fuentes on Monday. He was one of the players the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez.
• Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy have excellent taste in music. Peavy leans to the country side but not as much as you might think for an Alabama boy. Buchholz could have a side gig as a DJ. He has everything and mixes it well.
• Peavy picked up a cigar store indian statue in San Francisco and it sat in the Red Sox clubhouse every day on the trip. He's building a bar and bowling alley at his house and wanted it as a decoration.
• At what point would it be better for Daniel Bard for the Red Sox to release him? Maybe a new setting is what he needs.
• It's best not to worry about next season until after this one. But who plays first base in 2014 is interesting to ponder.
The candidates, in no particular order: Mike Napoli ... Will Middlebrooks ... Mike Carp ... Giant-sized Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu ... Justin Morneau. ... Kendrys Morales ... somebody picked up in a trade.
• A few readers have asked what players could get called up when rosters expand on Sunday. There are 12 healthy players on the 40-man in the minors plus Brandon Snyder, whose sudden elbow injury appears to be miraculously healing.
Rubby De La Rosa, Steven Wright, Ryan Lavarnway, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt would seem to be of immediate use.
Jose De La Torre, Brayan Villarreal, and Pedro Beato could help, too.
There's no reason to have a fourth catcher (despite the fine work of Dan Butler this season) or other extra guys around who aren't much use. That just creates more work for the coaches and trainers.
• Finally, thanks to all the readers who said hello out in California and apologies for turning down offers to have a beer during the game. Maybe we should schedule a party after the season somewhere.