Red Sox rout Rays to take 1-0 lead in ALDS

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After falling behind 2-0 after four innings, the Red Sox scored 12 unanswered runs in support of Jon Lester to emerge victorious in Game 1 of the ALDS. Lester had surrendered two solo home runs, one in the second inning to Sean Rodriguez and one in the fourth inning to Ben Zobrist. But the Red Sox, who led the American League in on-base and slugging percentage, would quickly get to Rays starter Matt Moore.

In the bottom half of the fourth, the Sox pushed across five runs on six hits. The big blows included a two-run double by Jonny Gomes and a two-run double by Will Middlebrooks. It turned out Lester wouldn’t need any additional run support, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from piling on.

Moore took the hill to start the fifth, which turned out to be a mistake. Jarrod Saltalamacchia pushed across two runs with a one-out double. Finally, manager Joe Maddon took Moore out for reliever Wesley Wright, but Saltalamacchia eventually came around to score on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, the run charged to Moore. Moore finished the day having allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in four and one-third innings.

The Rays bullpen held the Red Sox at eight runs, giving their offense a slim chance of staging a comeback, but when Jamey Wright came in for the eighth inning, the game was put out of reach. Wright allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base on three consecutive singles followed by two walks, pushing across two runs in the process. Two more would score on a Jonny Gomes 6-4-3 double play and Saltalamacchia’s RBI single, putting the Red Sox up 12-2.

Aside from the two solo shots, Lester was solid, holding the Rays to just the two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. Junichi Tazawa relieved him in the eighth, recording the final out before giving way to Ryan Dempster, who struck out two in the final frame.

Now leading the series 1-0, the Red Sox will look to extend their lead tomorrow at 5:30 PM EDT as John Lackey opposes David Price, who helped pitch the Rays into the Wild Card playoff game by defeating the Rangers in Game 163 of the regular season.

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.