Red Sox

First Pitch: Tuesday, September 27

143385.jpg

First Pitch: Tuesday, September 27

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst 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 Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

SO NOW IT'S DOWN TO . . . Eighteen innings. And Curt Schilling knows where the responsibility lies. (twitter.com)

Though Peter Gammons knows where the fault lies. (twitter.com)

The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race is gone, thanks to last night's 6-3 loss in Baltimore (csnne.com) coupled with the Rays' 5-2 win over the Yankees. (Tampa Tribune) The Sox, for the first time, no longer control their playoff destiny; even if they win the last two against the Orioles, they need the Rays to lose at one of their last two against New York to avoid a play-in game Thursday against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. And considering the Sox went 1-6 against the Rays in September, I'm sure we're all feeling really confident about that one.

But truth is, it's hard to find anyone who expects the Sox to get to Thursday. Hard to find anyone who believes they can win these last two -- they're 6-19 this month and haven't won two in a row since Aug. 27 -- and avoid a collapse that, according to SB Nation's Rob Neyer, would be the worst in history.

That's what it's felt like, too.

AND WHY? Because the Sox are being let down by the players they need to carry them.

Last night it was Josh Beckett, losing his second straight to the woeful Orioles (csnne.com). The Sox' two aces, Beckett and Jon Lester, are 2-5 with an ERA of 5.73 in September; since Sept. 11, their ERA is 8.18. (Boston Globe) As good as Jacoby Ellsbury has been, last night's game turned on a play he should have made (csnne.com), according to both Steve Buckley and Lou Merloni.

And they're hardly the only ones. Yes, the Sox have had injuries and, yes, perhaps the front office could have provided more depth, and, yes, perhaps Terry Francona could have infused the team with a sense of urgency far earlier than he did. But if Beckett and Lester had pitched like Beckett and Lester, if the offense had produced consistently instead of at this maddening feast-or-famine rate, if Daniel Bard hadn't chosen the worst couple of games to implode, if the defense hadn't shattered, the Sox would be getting ready for the postseason now.

They still have a shot, but it's hard to turn on a dime. Which makes it hard to believe that a turnaround is coming.

MORE GOOD NEWS: The Yankees -- whom the Sox desperately need to beat the Rays -- are playing these last two games like it's the last week of spring training. (ESPN New York)

BUT AT LEAST . . . there won't be a three-way tie for the wild card; the Angels are out. (baseballmusings.com)

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

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

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

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE