Red Sox

AL wild card standings make it clear that Red Sox must target these two teams

AL wild card standings make it clear that Red Sox must target these two teams

The Red Sox are still treating the 2019 season as if it can end with a spot in the Wild Card game, so in the spirit of the holiday weekend, let's play along and indulge this exercise in wishful thinking.

They trail the Indians by six games and the Rays and A's by 5.5 each. Forget about Oakland. The A's have beaten good teams all year -- they're 25-22 vs. the other AL contenders -- and their schedule is packed with softies like the Tigers, Angels, Mariners, and Royals down the stretch.

If the Red Sox are going to leapfrog two teams, it's going to have to be Cleveland and Tampa.

There's some vulnerability there. The Indians seemed out of reach as recently as last week, but injuries keep sidelining starters. On Friday night, outfielder Tyler Naquin tore his ACL while making a spectacular running catch in the corner vs. the Rays.

He joins third baseman Jose Ramirez (broken hamate) on the shelf, robbing the lineup of two of its few productive hitters and effectively reducing the offense to Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana.

The Indians have overcome adversity all season, but they're hanging by their fingernails. Second baseman Jason Kipnis left a recent game with a sore wrist. Ace Corey Kluber broke his arm after being hit by a line drive on May 1 and hasn't pitched since. He recently suffered an oblique injury during his rehab and could be out for the season. Outfielder Jordan Luplow, who had provided unexpected production in a reserve role, hasn't played since early August because of a hamstring injury. One bright spot: right-hander Carlos Carrasco just returned after missing three months while battling leukemia.

Add it all up, and the Indians have dropped in the standings. They led the Twins by a half game on Aug. 12, but they trail by 4.5 games today. They've lost three games in the standings to the A's and four to the Red Sox since, putting them ever so slightly in play as the final month begins.

With six games remaining against the Twins and six more against the Phillies and Nationals in the final 10 days of September, the Indians face a tough road to the postseason. Could they open a door for the Red Sox?

Only if the Rays collapse, too. The Red Sox at least somewhat control their own destiny in that regard, with four games in Tampa looming on Sept. 20. Unfortunately, the rest of the schedule isn't particularly kind to Boston, with games remaining against the Twins, Yankees, Phillies, and Giants as well.

The Rays have rebounded from a four-game losing streak to win three straight, and will try to complete a sweep of Cleveland on Sunday. They've been crushed by injuries, too, with defending Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell (elbow surgery), breakout star Tyler Glasnow (forearm strain), and solid starter Yonny Chirinos (finger) all on the injured list. Tampa, which has perfected the art of the opener, has used 14 different starting pitchers and still ranks second in the AL in ERA (3.67).

The Rays are 9-6 against the Red Sox and have consistently outplayed them. Boston is trying to win the Tampa way, with openers and bullpens ruling the day, though the Red Sox boast the clearly superior offense.

After Sunday's finale in Anaheim, the Red Sox will have 25 games left to make up a significant wild card deficit. The odds remain decidedly against them, but the path they must follow is clear. It passes through Cleveland and Tampa.

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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