What Happened to the Red Sox?

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Despite their late season charge, everyone kind of figured that the Twins would fall to the Yankees in the ALDS.  While some morons totally blew the call on the Cardinals-Dodgers series, it’s not like the Dodgers winning was a total shocker either. But did anyone really think that the Red Sox would simply roll over and play dead like they did against Anaheim?

Actually, maybe some folks did.  Here’s Theo Epstein after yesterday’s loss: “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out
of the blue.  We saw things that
were reflected early in the season.”

What kinds of things?  For one thing, the shakiness of Papelbon.  No, you can’t pin this all on him — and let’s be 100% clear here: the Sox “fans” booing Paps after the top of the ninth was a totally bush league move from folks who should know better — but the fact is that Papelbon v.2009 was not the same pitcher we grew used to seeing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  His velocity is down and when you have a merely superior fastball as opposed to an otherworldly one like he’s had in the past, you’re going to get smacked around a bit.  And you get the sense that he knows his kung-fu isn’t what it used to be. He went 3-0 on Chone Figgins before getting anything over in the ninth. The same Chone Figgins who had been 0-12 prior to that at bat.  Papelbon should have been throwing his version of batting practice fastballs to him, challenging him to do something with the ball. Except now Papelbon’s version of a batting practice fastball is no longer an above-average major league fastball, and his tentativeness simply underscored this.

But like I said, hanging this on Papelbon is to miss the real story here, and that’s the story of an aging and incomplete offense that feasted on the Orioles and in home games all year but which was really exposed against the Angels pitching.  Ortiz was 1-12 with zero extra base hits. Lowell had an RBI yesterday, but was 0-7 in the two games in Anaheim. Jason Bay was 1-8. There was a lot of that.  It’s just not a team with a bat that strikes fear into the heart of a pitching staff anymore.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan went so far as to pine for Manny Ramirez yesterday.  

I don’t know if it’s that bad, but the 5-1 lead in yesterday’s game was, in hindsight, a mere blip on the radar screen. The one run and eight hits they gathered in two losses in Anaheim was far more indicative of the state of the Sox against good pitching.

It’s going to be a slightly longer offseason than expected in Boston this year, but from the looks of things Theo Epstein is going to need all of the extra time he can get in order to cure what ails the Red Sox.

The Cubs will soon announce a five-year contract extension for Theo Epstein

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Theo Epstein (R), President of Operations for the Chicago Cubs, talks with head football coach Jim Harbaugh of the University of Michigan before the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Carrie Muskat of MLB.com just tweeted that the Cubs will soon announce a five-year contract extension for president Theo Epstein. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that it’s worth in excess of $50 million.

He’s earned it. When he took over the Cubs in October, 2011 the Cubs were a last place team with an aging roster and a front office that was several years behind the state of the art in every conceivable way. Last year the Cubs made the playoffs and this year they are baseball’s best team by a large margin and the franchise looks poised to continue its success for some time.

So, yeah, I’d say locking Theo up is a good idea.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 21:  Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 21, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox will once again attempt to clinch the AL East after failing to do so on Tuesday night. They can seal the division with a win against the Yankees or a Blue Jays loss to the Orioles on Wednesday evening.

Clay Buchholz will take the hill for the BoSox against Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell in a 7:05 PM EDT start at Yankee Stadium. Buchholz hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable this season, holding a 5.00 ERA with an 87/53 K/BB ratio in 133 1/3 innings. However, he has been in three of four starts since returning to the rotation earlier this month. Over those four starts, he owns a 3.97 ERA and a 15/8 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, at the Rogers Centre, the Jays will send out Francisco Liriano against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman in a 7:07 PM EDT start. Liriano has been much improved since coming to the Jays from the Pirates, so the Orioles will have their hands full.

As for Wild Card action, the Royals can be eliminated if they lose to the Twins or if the Orioles beat the Jays. The Yankees can be eliminated by losing to the Red Sox and the Orioles defeating the Jays. In the National League, the Marlins can be eliminated by losing to the Mets or the Giants beating the Rockies.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller) @ Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez), 7:05 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Jameson Taillon), 7:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Francisco Liriano), 7:07 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Zach McAllister) @ Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Urena), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan) @ Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana) @ Kansas City Royals (Jason Vargas), 7:15 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Blake Snell) @ Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez), 8:10 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Anthony DeSclafani) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake), 8:15 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Los Angeles Angels (Alex Meyer), 10:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Jose De Leon) @ San Diego Padres (Luis Perdomo), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Tyler Chatwood) @ San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija), 10:15 PM EDT