By Matt Straub
I’m tempted to write about how much I respect Derek Jeter in this space, but the Red Sox actually showed some life last weekend, so we’ll give them the respect they deserve. Friday was an incredible game in which the Sox erased three Toronto leads and won in extra innings, and the Sox pulled out another win Saturday before dropping the series finale Sunday.
Not all is well in Red Sox Nation. Koji Uehara is no longer the closer, having asked out of the role after a stretch of struggles which included allowing two homers to the Yankees in a bad loss. Brandon Workman, the least likely of the new wave of pitchers to have a spot on next year’s team, is pitching in this series, and the Red Sox have only the hope of being a spoiler to play for.
Yet, they keep playing hard, fighting the Yankees and taking two from the Jays. Dustin Pedroia worked his way back from a concussion when he could have taken September off, and young players like Mookie Betts give fans something to watch in a lost year.
I loved what the Yankees did for Jeter and how he’s handled himself over the years, but I’ll watch the Sox for a few more games, even if it’s more out of duty than excitement. The players who are still fighting deserve it.
Let’s break down what those spunky Sox must do against the Orioles starting tonight.
Baltimore (83-59, 9.5 game lead in AL East)
at Boston (63-80, 20.5 GB in AL East)
Monday, 7:10 p.m.
Miguel Gonzalez (8-7, 3.38) vs. Joe Kelly (3-3, 4.13)
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.
Chris Tillman (11-5, 3.40) vs. Anthony Ranaudo (3-1, 4.63)
Wednesday, 1:35 p.m.
Wei-Yin Chen (14-4, 3.69) vs. Brandon Workman (1-8, 4.90)
Playoff Picture: The Red Sox were eliminated from the AL East race with a loss Sunday. OK, they’ve been out of it for months, but now it’s official. Baltimore would need a 2011 Red Sox type collapse not to win the division, and it’s probably too late for them to blow it even if they do fall apart. Baltimore is now fighting for the two-seed and home field in the first round of the playoffs.
Momentum: The Red Sox have won two of three and looked alive, even if they’re out of it. The Orioles have won 7 of 10 and look to be in playoff form.
Who’s Hot: Nelson Cruz is hitting .407 in the last seven games with four homers. Nick Hundley is a serviceable player whose name doesn’t come up much but has been on fire. Jonathan Schoop has three homers in his last seven games. For Boston, Yoenis Cespedes is on fire, having hit .323 last week and Mookie Betts is entrenching himself as part of the future with big weeks like last week. Xander Bogaerts looks back to his old self after the concussion and the mental stress of being moved around the field this year, and Christian Vasquez is working on showing he’s more than just a defensive catcher. If I can get over the Jeter picture, I’ll like him.
Who’s Not: Chris Davis had just a .259 average in the last week, and Adam Jones helped kill my fantasy with a decidedly mediocre stretch. For Boston, Daniel Nava has fallen off the pace considerably, but Will Middlebrooks continues to reinvent the word slump. He hit .100 in six games in the last seven days and gets closer to being on a different team in 2015 every day. Allen Craig not only is hitting .059 in the last seven days, but made a brutal play in the field Friday when he didn’t know how many outs there was and gave up a run by not throwing the ball back in. So far, the Lackey trade has been a wash, as neither team is real happy.
Looking Ahead: A trip to Kansas City awaits as the Red Sox try and play spoilers in another divisional race.