Red Sox

McAdam: Sox almost facing must-win

191542.jpg

McAdam: Sox almost facing must-win

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It was supposed to be the final game of the next-to-last road trip of the regular season, no more or less meaningful than the 75 other road games they've already played.

Instead, after a crushing, 6-5, extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night, it's become awfully close to a must-win for the Red Sox.

Coming into this series, the Red Sox needed one win against the hard-charging Rays. One win Friday or Saturday would have halted the Rays' momentum. The math would have meant that the best the Rays could hope to make up during the series was a net improvement of one game in standings.

That wouldn't have been enough, with just over two weeks to go in the season. A six-game difference in the loss column would have been too imposing.

But not now. Thanks to Red Sox losses Friday and Saturday, the Red Sox have lost four in a row, six out of seven, nine of 12. They have seen their margin for the wild card shaved to four games.

What they've done, really, is held the door open for the Rays and invited them to join the playoff push.

This is the invitation the Rays have been waiting for all season. They did nothing at the trade deadline, hamstrung by the improbability of making up all that ground in the final two months, and, as always, payroll limitations.

September was going to be all about the Red Sox and Yankees, jocking for position, angling for the division title, with the loser taking the wild card spot.

Not anymore. It's close to becoming a three-team race. There's still time for the Rays, who have four games remaining with the Sox next weekend at Fenway and seven with the Yankees.

The Yankees, too, suddenly have problems of their own, having lost four straight. If the Red Sox had merely played .500 or so through the first six games of this road trip, they likely would be tied or leading the division.

But that's a discussion for another time, because winning the division is, suddenly, far from the Red Sox' biggest priority. The biggest challenge is making sure they get to the playoffs at all.

Two weeks ago, that sort of statement would have been silly. Back then, seeding was the lone concern. That, and trying to decide whether the Sox would be better off playing Texas or Detroit in the Division Series.

That seems like a long time ago now. Injuries have torn apart the rotation and robbed the Sox, for now, of their cleanup hitter.

They're not sure who's going to start for them three games from now, and they don't know who's their best option for the seventh inning.

In the big picture, however, the problems are simpler. One more loss here would change the face of the final two weeks, and turn September from tune-up time to survival mode.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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