A plate appearance shy

Current Conditions:

Another win drops the magic number to 17.   If the Red Sox go 17-6 the rest of the way, they win the division, no matter what the Yankees do.  If the Red Sox take 2 out of 3 from the Yankees in their remaining games, they only need to go 13-7 in their other games to clinch the division, no matter what the Yankees do.

We can stop worrying about the divisional race, and start worrying just about getting everyone playing well, properly rested, and ready for October baseball.

In that line, Francona will be sitting Dustin Pedroia tonight to give him some rest, and get Alex Cora some playing time.  Pedroia might come off the bench to pinch hit, and you couldn’t ask for a hotter bat to do that.   Pedroia has 5 straight multiple-hit games raising his average from .315 to .329 in less than a week, moving him to 6th in the league just behind teammate Mike Lowell.  Can you say "Rookie of the Year"?

Playing tonight again will be a candidate for NEXT year’s Rookie of the Year, Jacoby Ellsbury.   He’s 8 for 12 with 2 homers and a triple since being called up on Saturday.  Last night he was a double shy of the cycle, but never got a chance because he was the only starter not to get 4 plate appearances.  The #8 hitter, Crisp, ended the 8th, and the Sox didn’t need to bat in the 9th.  What a shame!

Usually a guy who can hit for the cycle is hitting higher in the lineup, and all that hitting means his team is probably hitting well, too, so he has no problem getting 4 plate appearances.  It’s strange that a starter would be a double shy of the cycle, play the full game, and not get a 4th plate appearance.  I wonder how many times that’s happened before?

Forecast:

Not to pat myself on the back too much, but yesterday’s forcast was almost spot on.  Beckett indeed left after 8 innings with a "1 or 2 run lead" (when he threw his last pitch, it was a 1 run lead, but when officially replaced, it was up to a 2 run lead, so a "1 or 2 run lead" was exactly right!).   I had the Sox scoring 4 or 5 runs off Halladay through 7.  Indeed, they’d scored 4 off him after 7.  I was surprised that Halladay pitched the 8th given his pitch count, but he was trying to save the bullpen, so he matched his season high in pitches. 

The place I missed was that they wouldn’t use Papelbon.  For the first time all year, they used him for 3 straight games, and it was the topic of much conversation in Francona’s press conference and Papelbon’s post-game interview, where they both said Papelbon had felt strong and was begging all day to pitch, and the doctors and trainers had given the OK. 

So now Papelbon is *definitely* unavailable, but the rest of the bullpen is available.  They also have Corey and Hansack available now, from AAA.

Schilling has been pitching better lately but is still unpredictable at this point, and Marcum has 8 wins in his last 10 starts, with 7 quality starts in that time.  Toronto is also hanging on in the wildcard and desperate for a win to gain back momentum, while the Sox have all but locked up the division.   The advantage goes to Toronto in this game.   Their offense will get to any Schilling mistakes, and Marcum will pitch just well enough to win, especially with Pedroia resting.

If the Red Sox are to win, it will be a comeback win off Toronto’s bullpen in the 7th or 8th inning.  Getting Marcum out on pitch count in less than 7 innings will be key.  If they don’t, Toronto gets the win.

Long-range Forecast:

The Red Sox will do everything they can to keep the current rotation intact, even after rainouts, as it’s now lined up perfectly for the playoffs, if you want your playoff rotation to be: Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Matsusaka.  Their last starts would be the Wednesday through Saturday of the last week of the season, meaning they’d each have 1 or 2 extra days of rest before their playoff starts.

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