|Boston Red Sox|
|26-28||at Tampa Bay||59-89|
With chances of catching the Yankees slim (5½ game back), the Red Sox will focus on the wild card race. Boston currently leads Seattle by a half game, but the Mariners face a much more difficult schedule, which includes a 10-game road trip and six games against the Oakland A's. If Boston goes 8-6 or 9-5, they should wrap up their first playoff appearance since 1999. Once they get there they may be a trendy pick to win it all. Even ESPN's Jayson Stark, in his September 10 Rumblings & Grumblings column, feels this is the Red Sox's year because they feature "baseball's best lineup since the '95 Indians -- and they can run Pedro out there twice in a short series."
Red Sox Offense Sets Records
Boston Red Sox offense, consistency thy name. Paying dividends to that consistency, the Red Sox set a few team records last week.
Continuing a season-long barrage of Red Sox home run derby, on September 9 David Ortiz became the 33rd player in the 12-year history of Camden Yards to homer onto Eutaw Street. But the blast itself became a part of Red Sox history as well. Ortiz's 26th home run of 2003 enabled the Red Sox to set a single-season club record for home runs (214) and extra-base hits (591) with one swing, toppling a homer mark set in 1977 and the extra-base record of 1997.
The Red Sox are on a pace to hit 238 home runs, still well shy of the record 264 hit by the 1997 Mariners. But the current Red Sox total is already greater than the all-time marks established by 11 other franchises.
Boston's offense is likely to set some more records before the season is over. They are currently only 9 extra base hits short of the Seattle Mariners' 1996 major league record of 607.
Additionally, six Red Sox players already have 20 or more home runs and if Bill Mueller, who has 19, hits one more, Boston will become just the third team in history to have seven players with 20 home runs, following in the footsteps of the 1996 Orioles and 2000 Blue Jays.
Mueller's 80th RBI on Sunday gave the Red Sox a team-record seven players with 80 RBI or more. And just for good measure, Mueller helped set that milestone with a sacrifice fly, which was the team's 60th of the year and broke the previous club record of 59.
With 217 home runs, 598 extra-base hits, and 14 games left to add to those totals, the Red Sox's playoff push will likely depend on the continued prowess of the Boston bats.
McCarty Wants New Role
When the Red Sox claimed David McCarty on waivers from the A's on August 5 they knew he could play first base, left and right field. Next season, he might add pitcher to that list.
McCarty would like to emulate the career path of current Milwaukee Brewers pitcher/pinch-hitter Brooks Kieschnick, who has a 1-1 record and 5.14 ERA in 39 relief appearances to go with a .323 batting average and six homers as a pinch hitter and interleague DH.
"This is something I've thought about for years, but now with Brooks Kieschnick doing it, I thought it might be something that could enhance my career," McCarty, a former first round draft pick from Stanford, told the Boston Herald.
It doesn't hurt that the 6-foot-5 wanna-be pitcher throws left-handed (he bats right) with an estimated fastball in the 88-90 mph range. McCarty, who made two appearances from the mound for Triple-A Toledo in 1999, has been throwing in the bullpen for pitching coach Dave Wallace and Euclides Rojas.
"We're serious enough to look at him. If it's something we think will work, we'll send him to the instructional league and see if he can develop some skills there," manager Grady Little said in the Herald.
In the interim, McCarty has been a success in his current role. Despite limited playing time, he has a homer, six RBI's, and .438 batting average (7-for-16) in 12 games.
Brown Likely Final September Call-Up
Outfielder Adrian Brown was called up from Pawtucket on Friday after the PawSox were swept in the International League championship series.
A switch-hitting outfielder with decent speed, Brown played the last six years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being released and picked up by Tampa Bay following the 2002 season. Shortly thereafter, Boston made him the final player selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Brown, 29, hit .282 with five homers, 32 RBI and 34 stolen bases for Pawtucket and led the club with 81 runs. He hit only .216 for the Pirates last year, with 1 HR and 21 RBI in 208 at-bats, but is a .261 career hitter in the majors.
With the addition of Brown, the Red Sox active roster stands at 32 players. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox designated Steve Woodard for assignment.
Red Sox Lose Coin Flips
If necessary, the Red Sox will not host a one-game playoff for either the A.L. East or wild card. Boston lost a pair of coin flips at Major League Baseball headquarters last week, and as a result would play at Yankee Stadium on Monday, September 29 if the East title is on the line.
In the more likely case of a tie for the wild card, Boston would travel to Seattle to play the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Ex-Sox Factor: Sanchez & Hillenbrand
Former top-prospect Freddy Sanchez barely played after the July 31st trade deadline deal that sent him to the Pirates for Jeff Suppan. He made one start for Pittsburgh's Tripe-A team, the Nashville Sounds, before landing on the disabled list with tendonitis in his right foot. He missed the remainder of the minor league season and was not called up to Pittsburgh when rosters expanded.
Shea Hillenbrand has found more power since his trade to the Diamondbacks. But his 14 homers (and 53 RBI) in 287 at-bats have masked a drop-off in batting average (.265) and on-base percentage (a very low .299).
Hillenbrand, who hit .303 with Boston prior to his trade to Arizona on May 29 for Byung-Hung Kim, has also criticized the Red Sox a number of times since being dealt. He recently lashed out at the coaching staff after Grady Little benched Manny Ramirez. "Carl Everett and Manny were the only two to take me under their wing in Boston, the only two who ever taught me how to play, when I came up."
He also explained his distaste for Boston's "knights of the keyboard", which would have made Ted Williams proud. "The Boston media is loony. And you can put that in quotation marks: The Boston media is loony."
But Hillenbrand did reiterate his love of the city and fans. "It's an honor to play in Boston. I miss Boston very much. I miss the fans."
If Bill Mueller hadn't done such a fine job as Hillenbrand's replacement, the feeling might be mutual.
Notes and News
Trot Nixon is expected to miss the Devil Rays series with a strained left calf. He has missed the previous four games due to the injury.
Bronson Arroyo was named the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher of the Year. The last Pawtucket pitcher to win the award was Brian Rose in 1997.
The Red Sox offense has scored seven or more runs in 62 games
Tim Wakefield leads the Red Sox with 185 innings pitched
According to manager Grady Little, the pitching rotation for the final five games of the season will be John Burkett, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Jeff Suppan and Tim Wakefield. The regular season ends on Sunday, September 28 and the American League Division Series will begin on either September 30 or October 1. The current rotation would mean that Lowe would likely start Game 1 if it falls on the 30th, and Martinez would get the call if the Red Sox open the playoffs on October 1.
September 15 - 18
Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park
Monday – Derek Lowe (15-6, 4.57) vs Jorge Sosa (5-10, 4.30) - 7:05
Tuesday – Pedro Martinez (12-4, 2.36) vs Jeremi Gonzalez (6-9, 3.91) - 7:05
Wednesday – Jeff Suppan (2-2, 5.52) vs Victor Zambrano (10-9, 4.44) - 7:05
Thursday – Tim Wakefield (10-7, 4.28) vs Rob Bell (4-3, 5.54) - 7:05
September 19 - 21
Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field
Friday – John Burkett (10-8, 5.04) vs Cliff Lee (3-1, 3.19) - 7:05
Saturday – Derek Lowe vs Jason Davis (8-10, 4.45) - 7:05
Sunday – Pedro Martinez vs Chad Durbin (0-1, 7.36) - 1:05