Red Sox fall, Rays climb to within a half-game

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The Red Sox dropped yet another game in the first of two against the Yankees on Sunday, falling 6-2 despite a pair of homers from Jacoby Ellsbury.  Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-2 and are now just a half-game out in the wild card chase.

If the Red Sox falter again tonight, they’ll enter the final three games of the series tied with Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox fell behind early yet again, as their opponents scored first for the ninth time in 10 games.  The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first after both Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter dropped down bunt singles to start a rally.  The Bombers added a two-run homer from Jorge Posada in the third, and in spite of Ellsbury’s best efforts, the Red Sox never threatened from there, as A.J. Burnett pitched into the eighth inning for the first time since July 29 and won for just the third time in the second half.

The Rays’ game played out similarly, as Tampa Bay scored two in the first and two in the third to take an early 4-1 lead.  Wade Davis allowed just three hits over eight innings for his victory.  B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Kelly Shoppach all homered for the Rays.  Zobrist’s was an inside-the-park homer on which Jose Bautista was injured crashing into the wall in right field.

Tampa Bay will finish off the regular season with a three-game series at home against the Yankees.  The Red Sox will play Baltimore three times after finishing the series in New York tonight.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.