1. The Devil Rays don’t suck quite has much anymore. They were under .400 two weeks ago. But after going on a tear—and whomping the Yankees—they were just one game behind Baltimore heading into tonight’s game. They have a killer schedule at the end of this month that includes the Angels and the Yankees and Boston again, but if the Orioles continue to slide, Baltimore could be the cellar-dwellers this year. If Tampa makes some savvy offseason moves, they could actually be a legitimate team next year. Who knew?
2. Dustin Pedroia: your AL Rookie of the Year. Write it down.
3. So it’s 9/11. And it’s the 7th inning stretch. And a bunch of firefighters are singing “God Bless America,” just days after Boston’s fire department buried two of their own, killed in the line of duty. Everyone is listening in rapt attention. Except for Curt Schilling, that preachy Republican blowhard, who is talking. The guy he was talking to, J.D. Drew, at least had the decency to look like he was trying not to listen. Now, I’m no anti-Schilling type. I have a wee soft spot for the guy (bloody sock, you know). But Jesus, Curt. I know you like to hear your own voice, but can’t it wait until the commercial break? Talk about all hat and no cattle. Shut up and throw.
4. Speaking of commercial breaks, something I love to do during them is browse through catalogs. This game, I discovered a wondrous new item: L.L. Bean shearling flip flops. Shearling flip flops! These are my new must-have for fall.
5. Forget all the speculation about who will be in Boston’s outfield when Manny comes back from this oblique strain (it’ll still be J.D. Drew, no matter what Jacoby Ellsbury does in the interim). Having too many outfielders right now is the least of Boston’s problems. We only have two starting pitchers. Once the finest rotation in the league–perhaps in all of baseball?—Boston’s three and four starters have blown up this month. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, in September, have given up an average of 7 earned runs per start. The other pitchers that have started for the Sox in that span (Schilling, Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz) have given up an average of 2.13 earned runs per start. For the playoffs, then, Boston has a rotation of Schilling, Beckett, and a faint buzzing noise. There’s always the Julian Tavarez option, but I’m sure Terry Francona is as hesitant to go that route as I am—Tavarez is a wild card. Clay Buchholz still has just two starts in the majors, and though he did have a dandy relief appearance (three innings, three K’s, two walks, one hit, no runs) during one of Wakefield’s meltdowns, I don’t think you willingly hand the ball to him in Game 3. He may have thrown 50% of his major league games for no-hitters, but there’s such a thing as too much too soon. As for Jon Lester? He’s young, too, but may be their best option. Unfortunately, he’s only recently (like within the past couple of starts) gotten his walk ratio down. You don’t want to walk lineups like the Yankees’ or the Tigers’ in the playoffs. Lester faces off against the D-Rays tonight, and if he can’t slam the door on them, I will officially go into full-fledged Sox-panic mode, with horror’s icy hand gripping my heart. And even a plush pair of L.L. Bean shearling flip flops can’t take the edge off that chill.