Red Sox

Nine straight between Astros, Red Sox? Indians could make it happen

red_sox_astros_083117.jpg

Nine straight between Astros, Red Sox? Indians could make it happen

BOSTON — Let's get ahead of ourselves: a month from Thursday, Fenway Park could be the tipping point for something strange.

When the schedule came out, the potential for weirdness was always there. But as September arrives, the possibility for a bizarre end of the season in the American League is growing.

The Astros (80-53) visit Boston (76-57) for a four-game series to end the regular season, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Houston has led the pace in the AL for a long time. The separation, however, has dwindled. The Indians (76-56) have been charging, with seven straight wins, and may be the most complete team around. 

So let’s say the Indians do wind up with the best record in the AL. The other presumed division winners, the Astros and Sox, would play each other for at least seven straight games, and as many as nine: four to end the regular season, and then up to five more in the Division Series.

Sox manager John Farrell played the old day-at-a-time card Thursday when talking about the importance of the Yankees series that was about to get underway.

"The overriding feeling in our clubhouse and the approach of our players, they don't get past today," Farrell said.

That's nice. But as teams advance scout one another this month, there will be people charged with thinking about this very topic: would the teams act any differently in those regular season games? It's all hypotheticals, for now. But the standings are a road map.

Sometimes starting pitchers are held out of games against division-rivals in spring training. There could be too much on the line — seeding, if not a division title for the Sox — to skip someone in that final four-game series.

At the very least, Sox-Astros is the most compelling regular-season pair left on the schedule for Boston after this weekend.

Four games against the Yankees concludes a spin through a meat-grinder patch of the schedule. The Sox faced the Indians twice, the Yankees twice and had some Orioles mixed in. 

Up next, the Sox have the Blue Jays, the Rays, the A’s and then the Blue Jays again. None of those teams were above .500 entering Thursday. The Orioles have been streaking and also just swept the Sox, so their meeting at Camden Yards Sept. 18-20 could have significance.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Fiers, Tigers blank Red Sox 5-0

ap_18203001311585.jpg
File Photo

Fiers, Tigers blank Red Sox 5-0

Jose Iglesias homered and drove in four runs, and Mike Fiers pitched impressively into the seventh inning to lead the Detroit Tigers over the Boston Red Sox 5-0 on Saturday night.

The major league-leading Red Sox lost for just the second time in 15 games, and their AL East lead over the New York Yankees slipped to 4 1/2 games.

Fiers (7-6) worked his first scoreless outing since his Tigers debut April 8, when he beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 for Detroit's only other shutout this season. This time, he allowed seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.

Brian Johnson (1-3) gave up two unearned runs and five hits in five innings for Boston. He struck out five.

Detroit took the lead in the second after Victor Martinez reached on an error by third baseman Rafael Devers, playing his first game since being reinstated from the disabled list. Devers fielded Martinez's grounder well behind third and his throw went past first, enabling Martinez to arrive safely.

That miscue proved costly when Iglesias came up with two outs and hit a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Fiers threw only two balls through the first two innings, and he allowed three runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. He struck out Xander Bogaerts for the third out of the fifth with runners on first and third.

Boston threatened again in the sixth, but with two on JaCoby Jones was able to run down Jackie Bradley Jr.'s drive at the warning track in left field. In the bottom of the inning, Jeimer Candelario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Iglesias added a two-run homer.

Fiers exited with runners at the corners in the seventh. Alex Wilson got Bogaerts to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Boston star Mookie Betts had two hits, raising his big league-leading average to .355. He also made a superb catch in right field in the third, reaching above the wall to catch Leonys Martin's drive.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Devers (left shoulder inflammation) went 1 for 4. ... 2B Brock Holt, who left Friday's game with a bruised knee, was out of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora said he'd like to give Holt the weekend off. ... DH-OF J.D. Martinez had the day off after running into the wall while making a catch Friday. "These guys that make the All-Star Game, they really don't have an All-Star break," Cora said. "He's getting the day off because he ran into the wall, but I think it's a good day off for him anyway."

UP NEXT

Boston ace Chris Sale (10-4) starts the series finale Sunday against Blaine Hardy (3-2). Sale is 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA in his last seven starts.

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

A night after crashing into the right-field wall making a catch in the third inning of their 1-0 victory in Detroit, J.D. Martinez is out of the Red Sox lineup.

Here's a look at the catch: 

The news of Martinez getting the night off prompted this exchange with reporters, via The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the "general soreness" won't make him reluctant from using Martinez, second in the majors in homers with 29 and tops in RBI with 80, in the outfield, where he's played 39 games in his first season in Boston, compared to 54 at DH.

Mookie Betts is back in right Saturday, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in right.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE