Red Sox

First Pitch: Monday, September 12

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First Pitch: Monday, September 12

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: If you live in central Florida, well, these are glorious times. (St. Petersburg Times)

Up here? Not so much. (boston.com)

The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race -- once so substantial that barely anyone knew just how big it was, since nobody was looking at it -- is down to three in the loss column after Sunday's embarrassing 9-1 loss to the Rays (csnne.com), their third straight at The Trop and fifth in a row overall. The Yankees had been keeping the Sox in the division hunt with a slump of their own, but that may have ended yesterday. (New York Daily News) Now the focus is solely holding off Tampa Bay, and the Rays have made it clear they're in this for the duration. "I think we're a good enough team to beat those guys," said James Shields, who led Tampa Bay to victory yesterday. (Tampa Tribune)

For their part, the Sox are speaking bravely, too. "We've overcome a lot worse than this," said Jon Lester (csnne.com), though he didn't say when . . . and nothing really leaps to mind. "At the end of the day, we're going to win the wild card or the division," Adrian Gonzalez said flatly (Boston Herald).

Truth be told, Gonzalez is probably right. The Sox are heading home for a 10-game homestand, they don't figure to stumble around like this for 2 12 more weeks -- though it would help if Lester, their lone healthy (good) starter, doesn't continue to come up small when the situation screams for something big (csnne.com) -- and the Rays now head out for 11 straight on the road. But it's not a fait accompli; the Sox are going to have to start playing better. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo thinks Terry Francona has to abandon his low-key approach and turn up the heat, which will certainly be the talk radio strategy of choice over the next few days.

Oh, and those of you bemoaning the lack of pennant races this September? Be careful what you wish for.
WHAT RACE? IT'S OVER! ESPN's David Schoenfield declares the Rays will win the wild card.

SOUND FAMILIAR? The Cardinals swept the Braves this weekend, cutting Atlanta's once-formidable N.L. wild-card lead to 4 12 games. But foxsports.com's Jon Paul Morosi thinks the Sox and Braves with both hold on . . . maybe.

SPEAKING OF TALK RADIO: This will certainly warm the hearts of the "He only won because he had Dan Duquette's players!He only wins because the Red Sox are rich!Renteria! Gagne! Lugo! Drew!" crowd. (Chicago Tribune)

On further reflection, maybe the "Fran-coma" people will be happy, too.

MORE BAD NEWS: An injury is going to force the Rays to take Kyle Farnsworth -- who had the potential to be an embedded weapon for the Sox -- out of the closer's role. (Tampa Tribune)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox' season is over. (Providence Journal)

OLD FRIENDS: Anthony Rizzo is in a 2-for-34 slump with the Padres (rotoworld.com) . . . Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, is on a tear (ESPN Dallas) . . . Coco Crisp is hurting. (oakland.athletics.mlb.com)

AND FINALLY . . . Can someone please explain this? At least in a way that doesn't make MLB look even worse than it looks right now? (New York Daily News)

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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