Red Sox rout Orioles in second game of doubleheader, wild card lead back at two games

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After all that, we’re right back where we were when we began the day.

The Red Sox dropped the first game of today’s doubleheader against the last-place Orioles, but they brought their bats for the nightcap. On the strength of 20 hits, they pushed their Wild Card lead back to two games with an 18-9 victory.

This was a brutal game to watch for many reasons. Brian Matusz, who was making his first start since September 5, gave up six runs over 1 2/3 innings to fall to 1-8 on the season. The young left-hander now has a 10.68 ERA this season, which is the worst ever for a pitcher with a minimum of 10 starts in a season. The previous record holder? Roy Halladay in 2000.

Things weren’t much better with John Lackey. Despite getting 11 runs of support, he couldn’t even qualify for the win. Lackey was pulled in the fifth inning after allowing eight runs on 11 hits and two walks. And had a pretty nasty stare for Terry Francona on the way out. His ERA jumped from 6.19 to 6.49 in the no-decision. If Erik Bedard can’t make it back, it really looks like Alfredo Aceves would be Boston’s third starter in a potential playoff series.

Anyway, this night was about the bats for Boston. Of note, Conor Jackson hit a grand slam and Jacoby Ellsbury went 3-for-6 with an inside-the-park home run. Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with four RBI while Adrian Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro also had three hits.

The Red Sox will play five of their final eight games against the Orioles. And after watching tonight’s pathetic performance, Red Sox fans should feel pretty good about that. The Rays will open a four-game series against the Yankees tomorrow night. They play seven of their final 10 games against the Bombers.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.