Let chaos reign.
The Rays beat the Yankees 5-2 tonight while the Red Sox fell to the Orioles 6-3. And so, after 160 games, we have a flat-footed tie in the American League Wild Card race.
The Red Sox had their best starter on the mound tonight in the form of Josh Beckett, but he was chased after allowing six runs over six innings. He actually had a 2-1 lead until giving up an RBI single to Chris Davis in the bottom of the fifth and then four in the sixth, including a three-run inside-the-park home run by Robert Andino. Jacoby Ellsbury nearly made a fantastic catch on the fly ball, but lost the handle after running into the center field wall. Symbolic much?
The Red Sox managed to load the bases with one out in the of the top of the eighth inning, but they came up empty-handed after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging and Marco Scutaro grounded out. They had a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, but Orioles’ right-hander Jim Johnson was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to left field and Jed Lowrie to strike out to end it.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, James Shields came up big yet again. He limited the Yankees to two runs over 8 2/3 innings in the victory, falling one out short of his 12th complete game. Johnny Damon drove in the go-ahead run with a single in a three-run third inning and later added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh for some insurance.
The Red Sox are now 6-19 in September. They entered play on September 4 with a nine-game lead in the Wild Card race, but we’re all back at zero now.
The Red Sox will send Erik Bedard to the hill tomorrow night against Zach Britton and Jon Lester (on three days’ rest) against Alfredo Simon in the season finale. As for the Rays, they’ll pitch Jeremy Hellickson tomorrow night against Bartolo Colon and David Price on Wednesday in what will likely be a bullpen game for the Bombers. This probably goes without saying, but I’d rather be the Rays right now.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that Indians manager Terry Francona has set his starting rotation for the first three games of the World Series against the Cubs. Corey Kluber will start Game One, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games Two and Three, respectively.
Kluber, the ace of the staff, has had a terrific postseason. He’s made three starts with a 0.98 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians won two of his starts — Game Two of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.
Bauer was unable to make it out of the first inning of his ALCS Game 3 start against the Blue Jays after the stitches on his pinky opened up and caused blood to pour out. He suffered the injury repairing one of his drones, which he builds as a hobby. Bauer insists he’ll be good to go in Game Two, though he also insisted that the injury wouldn’t be an impediment against the Jays.
Tomlin has made two solid starts for the Indians, allowing a total of three runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Indians won both games he started, Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the ALCS. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes that if Bauer can’t go in Game Two, Tomlin will be moved up to start in his place.
It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.
Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.
What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.
A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.
This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.
Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.