Dis­as­ter alarm primed to sound

Sox in no shape to throw away East

Boston Herald - - BASEBALL SCOREBOARD - Twit­ter: @chad­jen­nings22

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN WIL­COX

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.

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