Disaster alarm primed to sound
Sox in no shape to throw away East
An hour and 15 minutes before yesterday’s first pitch, during the final swings of batting practice, an alarm sounded and lights flashed throughout Fenway Park. A recorded voice warned of an emergency situation.
It wound up being a false alarm. Or maybe it was just a metaphor.
With two games to play, the Red Sox are quick- ly approaching a break-glass situation, a near worstcase scenario for a team that’s supposed to be relaxing by now.
They still haven’t clinched the AL East. They’re up against the most dangerous lineup in baseball. And they’re ill-equipped for all that happens next if they can’t lock up first place in the next two days.
Two tremendous months had them sitting pretty. One bad week could ruin it all.
“Well, I think the obvious thing is to go out and put together a solid game and win,” manager John Farrell said. “Our destiny is controlled by us, particularly as it relates to the final two days and the division. We’ve got to go out and win a game.”
Go ahead and put “got to” in all caps, italics and bold letters. Put it in lights on top of the Prudential Center. The Red Sox have got to get this done, one way or another.
Win this afternoon with Drew Pomeranz on the mound. Break out the Chris Sale trump card to win tomorrow. Back in with a Yankees loss. Whatever it takes, the Red Sox have to avoid the nightmare scenario of a firstplace tie at the end of 162 games.
Because they’re in no shape to play 163.
Their worst-case scenario starts with a rotation that lacks depth. Sale can be a difference-maker in a five-game series — he can start twice, leaving the Red Sox to win just one of the other three — but put the Red Sox in a series of must-win games, and there’s only so much Sale can do.
And, really, there’s probably nothing he can do.
If the Red Sox don’t clinch today, they’ll have to pitch Sale tomorrow. Win that game, and there’s no need for a tiebreaker, no worry about a wild card, and Sale can still pitch Games 2 and 5 of the Division Series. Maybe not ideal, but still perfectly workable.
Fail to clinch the division this weekend, though, and the Red Sox will go into a Monday tiebreaker, in the Bronx, with Rick Porcello on the mound. Lose that game, and the Red Sox will be forced into a winner-take-all wild card game with Eduardo Rodriguez.
Sale can make up for a lot of rotation uncertainty, but only in a short series, not in the worstcase scenario that awaits if the Red Sox don’t seal the deal this weekend.
And who’s going to fill the lineup for those potential tiebreaker and wild card games?
Dustin Pedroia’s knees, Mookie Betts’ wrist and Hanley Ramirez’ shoulders are all lingering healthy concerns. Eduardo Nunez’ own knee injury has limited him to one game in the past three weeks.
The Red Sox hitters could use a break. They could use a spring training lineup tomorrow, an off day Monday, an early evening flight on Tuesday, and a day of workouts and treatment on Wednesday.
That’s the way to get a hobbled team rested and ready for a playoff series.
Know what won’t get them rested and ready?
Going all out to try to win tomorrow. Then playing a tense tiebreaker on Monday. Then facing a must-win wild card showdown on Tuesday.
The Red Sox roster is in no shape to have the year’s most important games come when they’re playing their 11th and possibly 12th days in a row
And because we know what it would take to make such a thing happen, we go ahead and fast forward through a weekend that sees the Red Sox fail to clinch sole possession of first place.
Can you imagine a team staggering into Game 163 with less momentum than the Red Sox? Can you imagine a team with more bravado or confidence than the Yankees?
Failing to clinch would require the Red Sox to finish their season by losing 6-of-7, all at home, in the final week, when all they needed was one more win to get the job done.
It would mean heading into Yankee Stadium to face a team that’s won 6-of-7, finishing with a three-game sweep with their backs against the wall.
You think these past five games have been deflating, imagine what the next two are going to feel like if the Red Sox let this thing slip away?
By the way, the Yankees have All-Star Luis Severino with his 2.98 ERA and dominant month of September lined up to start that potential tiebreaker game. The Twins have All-Star Ervin Santana lined up for the wild card.
Last night was not a Red Sox emergency, but two more games like it, and it will be time to sound the alarm.
HANGING IN THE BALANCE: Andrew Benintendi walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros last night at Fenway.