John Lackey can’t be Boston’s Game 4 starter

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With the Red Sox trying to put the Rays away in a three-game series beginning Friday, John Lackey has given all three Rays fans reasons to hope: he just left with the Red Sox down 5-0 after three innings.

It’s the first early exit for Lackey during the second half, but it’s the sixth straight outing in which he’s given up at least four runs.  He’s hasn’t allowed fewer than three runs in a start since facing the Mariners on July 22 and he hasn’t done so against a good offense but once all season (against Philadelphia on June 29).

So, while the newspapers have debated whether Lackey or Erik Bedard should start Game 3 of the postseason series for the Red Sox, the real debate is whether Lackey should be on the postseason roster at all.  He might be a better bet in October to go six innings and give up four runs than Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller, but there really doesn’t seem to be any upside here at all.

With Clay Buchholz making progress and hopeful of returning as a reliever at the end of the month, the Red Sox really need to think about stretching out Alfredo Aceves and setting him up as a postseason fourth starter.  He pitched 3 1/3 innings last time out on Monday, so it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.  Aceves, who made four starts earlier this season, has a 2.87 ERA in 94 innings on the year.

Of course, the Red Sox also have to be concerned with simply making the postseason.  They’re lead over the Rays will drop to 5 1/2 games if they go on to lose tonight.

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

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Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.