On the morning of Sep. 28, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Wild Card playoff spot. In just over three weeks the Rays cut the Red Sox nine-game lead down to nothing. Their season now rests on the outcome of the final two games of the regular season.
Tuesday’s starting pitchers are Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50) for Boston and Zach Britton (11-10, 4.44) for the Baltimore Orioles. Bedard has been battling knee and lat injuries and had his last start skipped. Like John Lackey, he has also been dealing with non-baseball issues as outlined in a Boston Herald article detaining his child support case. Bedard, who is 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA since joining the Red Sox at the trade deadline, will take the mound in Baltimore on seven days rest.
The probable starting pitchers for the regular season finale on Wednesday are Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49) for the Red Sox and Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85) for the Orioles. Boston’s playoff chances may ride completely on Lester, who leads the team in wins over the past two seasons. Lester will need to end his season-long three-game losing streak.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro have been the most solid performers during the Red Sox slide. This month they are batting over .370 with 19 RBI each. This past weekend Ellsbury became the first player in Boston history to have a 30-30 season, recording 31 home runs and 38 stolen bases to date. Ellsbury also notched his career-high 103rd RBI and improved his batting average to .322. Despite the epic team collapse around him, Ellsbury continues to fight and make a case for AL MVP this season.
After three months of the “Laser Show” MVP-caliber play, Dustin Pedroia has cooled off and those hitting below him in the batting order have slowed their pace as well. The Red Sox heart of the order Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz have maintained solid batting averages, but have failed to come up with big hits. The duo has combined for just five home runs and 22 RBI in September.
J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford have had career-worst years. A strong final series and run to the World Series is the only way fans will forget their disappointing play.
The status of both the Red Sox catchers is currently known. Neither may be able to play. Jason Varitek was hit on the knee by a pitch on Sunday and was a late scratch for his expected start on Monday. Jarrod Saltalamacchia started in Varitek’s place, but left Monday’s game after taking a foul ball off his collarbone in the eighth inning. Rookies Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito are available as backups. The young catchers have seen little playing time since their late-season call-ups.
Kevin Youkilis has been attempting to work his way back to play before the end of the season, but according to an ESPN report it is unlikely he will see any action against Baltimore.
The Boston Herald reports it is unlikely that Clay Buchholz will make an appearance in final games, but he could be available if needed for a one-game playoff on Thursday versus Tampa Bay.
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