Final, Yankees Win 14-2: Well, folks, aside from some of the results I sure enjoyed hosting this Red Sox Live Blog throughout most of the season. No need for nostalgic words or high-falutin cliches. We all know it was a frustrating season, but now Red Sox Nation turns its attention to the offseason, and there is likely to be a lot of turnover all over the roster, so there should be plenty of hot stove baseball excitement this winter in Boston.
So, with the win the Yankees finish their AL East championship season at 95-67, while the Red Sox close at 69-93. Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) picks up the win, while Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7) gets saddled with the loss. Time of the game was 3:23.
We won't draw this one out here, there will be plenty of time to talk more baseball on NESN.com as the Red Sox retool. However, as always, I invite you to follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff so we can chat Red Sox and all things MLB all winter. Look forward to seeing you there.
End 8th, Yankees 14-2: Here we go, folks, it's the last half inning of Red Sox baseball you get to enjoy until March.
Junichi Tazawa closes out his season with a MLB-best strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he'll undoubtedly be coming back next year as one of the bright spots from 2012.
Mid 8th, Yankees 14-2: So, seeing Danny Valencia hit for Pedroia, we are clearly at the point in the year where it's better to just give up, let the young guys play and save what the veterans have left for next year. In preperation for their game on Saturday, we suspect the Yankees will begin doing the same.
So, on the night Kuroda did his job, throwing seven innings and two runs on seven hits, striking out four in the process.
Bottom 7th, Yankees 12-2: So, regardless of what happens in the rest of this game, the Yankees will be the champions of the AL East yet again. Baltimore just lost 4-1 in Tampa Bay, ending their division-crown hopes and sending them to Texas on Friday.
Tough last day of the season for Baltimore, whose luck seemed to just run out down in Tampa Bay. Of course, looking at objective stats like run differential, the Rays are probably a better team, but that was the magic of the O's, right?
Mid 7th, Yankees 9-2: Good for Iglesias there. It's still a huge question whether or not he'll ever hit enough at the major league level to be a tenable starter, but, on the last day of the season, it's nice to see him end up with a moral victory.
Aside from that, according to WEEI, Nava is scheduled to undergo wrist surgery at the end of this season. This one seems to fall more under the category of a bump or bruise rather than a major injury, but nonetheless it's clearly something the outfielder needs to take care of. And, presumably he'll be back with Boston next year. He likely won't see nearly as many at-bats, but he's absolutely proven his value as a backup outfielder.
End 6th, Yankees 9-1: So, Cano is making himself more and more money by the at-bat, right? He was already presumed to be one of the most in-demand players in this coming offseason, but he's further proved his value down the stretch and in this very game.
The smart money says that Josh Hamilton and Cano are the frontrunners to take home the most money this offseason, but given Cano's position, lack of extra issues such as Hamilton's past and sweet swing he may well be positioning himself to take home a huge deal. Likewise, it's difficult to see him making that money with anybody but the Yankees.
Bottom 6th, Yankees 7-1: We're glad you're more interested in Red Sox Nation right now for game 162, but as we speak there is a debate going on which may decide the direction of the American nation — you may have heard about it.
That being said, we're certainly not urging to to change the channel (particularly if you happen to be tuned into NESN) but it's just something we thought we'd mention. It's always good to be cognizant of important issues, right?
Mid 6th, Yankees 7-1: At only 70 pitches through six innings, again Kuroda has been quietly going about his business — but doing so in pretty spectacular fashion.
With David Phelps going last night, that would put CC Sabathia right on
schedule to open the playoffs Saturday on four days rest, which is likely
exactly what the Yankees want. Since they look to be avoiding the wild card one-game playoff, it's clearly a huge boon to be able to open the postseason with your ace, and the Yankees have one of the best big-game pitchers in baseball.
End 5th, Yankees 7-1: Cano just looks absolutely locked in right now. As much turnover as the team has had in recent years, Cano is one of the few newcomers who has really exuded what they call "the Yankee way." Anyway, it's good timing for him, as he's been doing his part to carry the Yankees offensively with Teixeira and Rodriguez struggling.
Aside from that, Evan Longoria has hit his third home run of the game, and the Rays lead the Orioles 4-0 in the sixth inning. So, currently the scenario we proposed earlier holds true, and Baltimore could be looking at a trip to Texas tomorrow.
Mid 5th, Yankees 5-1: Through five innings, Pedroia back in the third inning and Ellsbury's scoring in the first have been the only times the Red Sox have been able to push runners as far as second base — Kuroda looks pretty comfortable out there.
Aside from that, we'll continue to give updates from around baseball, and through six innings the Angels trail Seattle 6-0. Why is that relevant? Because Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver is going to be denied in his bid for a 21st win, and phenom Mike Trout is 1-for-2 in the game, bringing his average up to .324. He'll likely fall short of Miguel Cabrera in the batting race, but it was worth taking a look.
End 4th, Yankees 5-1: So, this live blogger has spent many words professing his distrust in Ciriaco as a regular option as a starter. Well, that opinion hasn't changed, but I figured it was a good opportunity to say something positive about the utility infielder.
Despite his subtle troubles in the middle infield — and very obvious deficiencies in the outfield — Ciriaco has taken to third base very, very well. In fact, I'd go so far to say that he looks very natural at the position, even on slow rollers up the line. And, there, you saw him flash an arm that seems tailor-made to play there.
Mid 4th, Yankees 5-1: So we have an update on the Rays-Orioles game.
The Rays have homered three times and lead the O's in the bottom of the fourth. That means, as things stand right now, Baltimore would be line to head to Texas for a game on Friday to determine who would play in New York on Sunday for a five-game set.
End 3rd, Yankees 5-1: And with that, the Red Sox career of Daisuke Matsuzaka is almost certainly over. Red Sox Nation will almost certainly deem his tenure a disappointment, but remember this is a pitcher who once went 18-3 with an ERA of 2.90, and had three seasons overall in which he threw at least 150 effective innings.
That being said, the thing which derailed Dice-K's career were clearly injuries, as Matsuzaka also had three seasons in which he pitched fewer than 60 innings. Ultimately, it isn't Matsuzaka's fault that he was injured, but at the same time some disappointment is natural considering the amount of money Boston spent to acquire him.
Mid 3rd, Yankees 3-1: So, again credit Pedroia for putting everything he has into this last game despite suffering from a broken finger. It's pretty impressive to continue to see that kind of effort.
Anyway, we're ruminating over playoff scenarios here in the office, like many of you are, we're sure. So, in one scenario, if Baltimore wins tonight and New York loses, then it's possible that the Orioles could play in Tampa on Wednesday, New York on Thursday, Baltimore on Friday and back in New York on Saturday. Pretty crazy.
End 2nd, Yankees 3-1: First, a quick update: Baltimore currently trails Tampa Bay 1-0 in the top of the third inning. We have a long way to go, but if that score and this game's hold up, that would mean New York takes the East and Baltimore would be relegated to a winner-take-all wild card game Friday, and New York would host the winner of that one on Saturday.
Aside from that, Matsuzaka has again begun to miss in the middle of the plate. The pitch to Granderson actually wasn't all that bad, it was just a location that Granderson personally likes. The pitch to Martin, however, was right down Broadway.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: So, confused about all the possibilities as games begin (and some games end) on this last day of the season?
Well, guess what, we were to. Luckily, we here at NESN.com decided to take a crack at decanting all the scenarios, and we have them for you here. A couple notes: Oakland just beat Texas and has officially won the AL West crown. Meanwhile, Washington played earlier today and won, so now it's up to Cincinnati to win and keep pace.
We'll keep you updated throughout the night as all these games unfold and the playoff picture comes into a bit clearer focus.
End 1st, Red Sox 1-0: We'll get to the playoff implications of this game and all the possible postseason scenarios, but for now let's turn our attention to Yankees starter Kuroda.
The veteran right-hander features a four-seam fastball, a slider, a splitter and the Japanese-named "shuuto" — which is really a modified sinker. So, Kuroda features several pitches that break downward, so when he's at his best you'll see him inducing ground balls on a regular basis.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 1-0: For the second day in a row, the Red Sox take advantage of having Ellsbury back in the lineup and take an early lead, this time courtesy of an RBI by Ross.
So, if this is indeed his last time to the hill in a Red Sox uniform, let's take one last look at the vast repertoire of Dice-K. The right-hander features two- and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, a changeup, a slider and curveball, a forkball and possibly the ever-mysterious gyroball.
It's certainly not saying anything new to point out that most of Matsuzaka's struggles are related to his command. That may not be unsurprising, as pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery usually regain their velocity before their location, and some pitchers never fully recover their command at all — we're looking at you, Francisco Liriano. It always seems like Matsuzaka's either missing off the corners or right in the middle of the plate, but when he's on his game he's aggressive on the outer edges and using his array of pitches to his advantage.
7:10 p.m.: For the last time this year, we have first pitch! And, for those wondering, the gametime temperature is 70 degrees with 92 percent humidity and winds from the northeast at four miles per hour.
6:30 p.m.: On the last day of the regular season, it seems as if the Red Sox have made their best effort to feature their best possible lineup — as still depleted as that may be.
Tuesday night Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia returned to the batting order, and it didn't take those two long to cook up some offense. Behind them, Cody Ross stays in his customary cleanup roll, James Loney starts at first and Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate.
For the Yankees, obviously this game is very, very important to them (we'll break down the playoff scenarios later), so they field their best team. Mark Teixeira does get dropped a couple spots in the order, but one through nine it's still a deep, powerful New York lineup that Boston has to contend with.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Daniel Nava, LF
Cody Ross, RF
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jose Iglesias, SS
Daisuke Matsuzaka, P
Derek Jeter, SS
Ichiro Suzuki, LF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Curtis Granderson, CF
Raul Ibanez, DH
Russel Martin, C
Hiroki Kuroda, P
6:10 p.m.: In some bizarre way, it just feels kind of right that Daisuke Matsuzaka gets to play a large role in setting the closing memories of this bizarre Red Sox season. In many ways, Matsuzaka is himself a metaphor for everything Boston experienced this season: immense talent wasted by injury and perhaps a lack of focus at times.
Nonetheless, this live blogger is thoroughly getting behind Dice-K in this one. I mean, how awesome would it be to see, after everything this pitcher and this team has been through this season, to see Matsuzaka close the year with a complete game shutout or something along those lines. I'm thinking something somwhere in between Kevin Costner in For the Love of the Game or that epic slow clap at the end of Cool Runnings.
Game 162: Dice-K throws a perfect game. You heard it here first.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) October 3, 2012
8 a.m. ET: So, here we are, Game 162.
This is the point in the year, having live blogged so very many Boston Red Sox (69-92) games throughout the course of the season, that I feel like I should have some closing words of wisdom to shove off on the last day of the season. Well, sorry to leave you wanting, but this has been the kind of year that is just far too difficult to find the words for. I guess there aren't really multiple words that are appropriate, but I can think of at least one: frustrating.
Tuesday was a microcosm of the Red Sox' frustrating season. Even in a game that the team played very cleanly for 8 1/2 innings, they still managed to find a way to lose — in this instance, an implosion by closer Andrew Bailey and the heroics of Yankees pinch hitter Raul Ibanez.
But, as the Red Sox prepare for their last game of the year against the New York Yankees (94-67), they have one last chance to have a say in the AL East and relegate the Bronx Bombers to a tie for the division lead and a one-game playoff with Baltimore — if the Orioles can win Wednesday.
So, to end the season, a pair of Japanese right-handers face off, with Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68) taking on Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34). For Matsuzaka, it's one last chance to regain some dignity in his Red Sox career, as the 32-year-old has been much-maligned over the past couple seasons — much of which he spent on the DL.
Kuroda, meanwhile, has evolved into one of the better, more consistent pitchers in Major League Baseball. Even with the presence of CC Sabathia, Kuroda has arguably been the Yankees' ace in 2012, so there's probably no one they'd rather have on the mound as their playoff fate hangs in the balance.
First pitch is again scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN beginning at 6 p.m. for Red Sox First Pitch and the rest of your pregame schedule. Or just stick right here with NESN.com, as this very Red Sox Live Blog will have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, "all the stats and stories" in the hours leading up to the game.
And, as always, follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and MLB throughout this postseason and winter.