Pennant races are in full swing, and there are plenty of storylines to cover. So many, in fact, that we couldn't even get to all of them across the league in this week's 6-4-3.
Which ones did we tackle? Reading the rest of this story will probably help you find that answer.
Six Red Sox Thoughts
1. This has not been a good week
The Red Sox have played 163 games since Sept. 1 of last season. Their record in those games is 69-94. To put that in perspective, the Royals, Mets, Marlins, Pirates, Cubs, Rockies and Padres all won more games last year in fewer games. The Orioles won exactly 69 games last year. So yeah, that's not very good. That little piece of context aside, things have gone from bad to dreadful in the last week. Boston has been outscored 58-16 over the course of this seven-game skid. You don't need to be a brilliant baseball mind to know that that type of run differential ain't getting the job done. If you take out the 20-2 loss on Friday night (which is a monumental "if"), then it's not quite as bad I suppose — 38-14. OK, so it's still pretty bad. It's everything, too. The pitching hasn't been horrible (Friday's bludgeoning aside), but the Sox have been a bottom tier club in every aspect of the game. The lineup, admittedly filled with kids looking to make an impact, has done nothing. The defense, even that of highly touted glove men like Jose Iglesias and Ryan Lavarnway, has been lackadaisical — although Iglesias' double play on Monday was sick. In truth, the only good thing to come from this week has been the fact that the Red Sox are seven games closer to having the season over and moving on to continue the rebuilding process.
2. Time up for Bobby V?
Given the chance to change places with Bobby Valentine right now, would you do it? On one hand, you'd get to be a major league manager, which is pretty cool. You'd also be getting the paycheck of a major league manager, which is even cooler. You'd get to wear a baseball cap to work every day, and right now you would be staying in the finest hotels the West Coast has to offer. But then again, you'd be in charge of a ship that sunk a long time ago, and seemingly everyone wants to make you out to be the culprit. Valentine is far from the only reason the club is in the position, but he hasn't done much to aid himself this week. He's made some head-scratching pitching decisions with the likes of Rich Hill and Alfredo Aceves to name a couple. He's reportedly showing up to the park three hours before gametime. He can't figure out his lineup card, thanks in large part to the fact that he's working with a limited arsenal. And then there's seemingly every Sox fan with a blog, Twitter account or telephone calling for his head on a plate. Add it all up, and it certainly looks like time is running out for the skipper. At the very least, someone should give the guy a hug — or a drink.
3. Ace needs a new place
It's just no longer working for Aceves, and with Andrew Bailey back, Ace becomes expendable. Sure, he has provided some much-needed pitching versatility in the past two seasons, but is he really worth the headaches at this point? He does a lot of things well, but he doesn't excel at any of them. If he did, the Yankees would have never let him go. It feels like Aceves is trying to get himself out of Boston at this point. In the last week or two, he's been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team (or acting like a dink) and started an argument with the team's leader, Dustin Pedroia, in the dugout. Making matters worse, Aceves blatantly disrespected Valentine as part of that ridiculous exchange, an exchange in which Valentine clearly backed Pedroia on after the game. This is a guy who has lacked accountability all year — he's been known to skip out on speaking with reporters and when he does, rarely takes the blame — and hasn't been lights out or anything. In fact, he's gotten worse as the season has gone on. his appearance on Aug. 23 against the Angels is about as bad as you'll ever see a closer. Thanks for the memories, but for a team that seems devote to changing its culture, it would appear that Aceves may not be long for the Hub.
4. Show me something
Simply put, it sure looks like this team has quit on this season. It's a lost season, no doubt, but you're seeing some disheartening signs, especially over the past week. You know, the week in which the team lost all seven games it played on the West Coast. It's one thing to lose games — especially to an Oakland team that is white-hot right now — but it's another to look like you're just going through the motions. It's not across the board, and these guys might actually be trying hard, but it doesn't look it right now. Valentine blamed fatigue on Sunday, and that's kind of bogus. Is someone like Iglesias fatigued right now? Maybe, but he's playing for a job. Same with Lavarnway. Or Mauro Gomez. The Sox, as they are currently constructed, should be a hungry team. It just doesn't look it right now.
5.No quit in No. 15
One guy who's not going through the motions right now is Pedroia. That should surprise no one. He enters Tuesday riding a 14-game hitting streak after collecting his 1,000th career hit on Monday afternoon in Seattle. He continues to bust his butt day in and day out, and his in-game spat with Aceves proves he still cares. It also proves that he's not going to let the stupid stuff fly. It's clear that Pedroia felt a little embarrassed by the stories that came out (and the surprising allegations involving him), and he's trying to prove he can lead this team into the next step. So far, so good.
6. Is Iglesias the man going forward?
Jose Iglesias made his much-anticipated return to the bigs recently, and he'll likely see a lot of time the rest of the season. So far, it's been the same old Iglesias — all glove and no bat. In fact, Iglesias is hitless in 16 at-bats since being called up. That's not going to get the job done, no matter how good your hands and range are at shortstop. Are we putting too much into the next few weeks to say it could play a huge role in whether or not Iglesias is the long-term option for the Red Sox at shortstop? I don't think so, to be honest.
Four Observations From Around Baseball
1. Gone in a New York minute
Remember when the Yankees had a 10-game lead in the American League East and looked to be cruising to the playoffs? It didn't take long for that to evaporate, as the Bombers now hold just a one-game lead in the East over the freaking Baltimore Orioles. The O's are playing inspired baseball, and they deserve all the credit in the world. As do the Tampa Bay Rays who aren't going anywhere. But this is about a Yankees team that is underachieving right now. They're just not playing good baseball in a stretch of a month and a half. They took a 10-game lead on July 18, and have gone just 19-24 since. They're in danger now, and plays like Robinson Cano's on Monday won't inspire too much hope in Yankees fans. The second baseman couldn't quite reach a ground ball hit to his left during the eighth inning of a tied game with the Rays. The obvious play would have been to slide or dive and knock down the ball and keep the base runner at third base. Instead, Cano let the ball through the infield allowing the eventual winning run to score. New York desperately needs something to turn things around, or they could find themselves playing the role of the 2011 Red Sox coughing up a surefire playoff spot in the final month.
2. Straight A's
How's this for bizarre? We sit here on Sept. 4, and the Oakland Athletics have the same exact record as the Yankees. That's because the A's have been arguably baseball's hottest team since the All-Star break. They're 33-15 since recess. That's thanks in large part to winning streaks of seven games and nine games, with the latter being snapped on Monday. You're inclined to look at the pitching when it comes to the A's, and they've been good, no doubt. They've allowed the second-fewest runs in the league, but don't have a real standout starter, a testament to their pitching success from top to bottom. The surprising thing, in the second half at least, has been the offense. The light-hitting A's have become the Bay Area Bombers, scoring 257 runs in just 48 second-half games. Or, put another way, they've scored 29 more runs than the Yankees have since the All-Star break.
3. Hollywood hangover
Los Angeles was full of excitement after news broke that the Dodgers were taking on three of the Red Sox' most crippling contracts and Nick Punto. No worries, they said out there — this is just what the Dodgers need to get over the hump. It hasn't gone to plan yet, at least not through the first nine games, in which the Dodgers are 4-5. They are on a three-game winning streak, thanks to Andre Ethier's heroics on Monday night against the Padres. If you're a Dodgers fan looking for positives, you can find some in two of the newly acquired former Red Sox. First, Josh Beckett looked very, very good Saturday against Arizona. The right-hander worked down in the zone on the way to striking out nine in his first win in Dodger blue. Then you have Adrian Gonzalez. He's having some trouble readjusting to the NL West, but he had a pair of hits on Sunday, and singled off of Tommy Lane on Monday night. That single might seem somewhat irrelevant, but Lane has been hell on lefties since being called up. In fact, Gonzalez's knock was the first Lane has allowed to a left-handed hitter. The Dodgers, who are currently out of the playoffs, have to be hoping that Beckett and Gonzalez will use those to spring something even better down the stretch.
4. Well-oiled Red machine
Joey Votto hasn't played in a major league baseball game since July 15. It would be safe to assume the Reds would struggle to win major league games starting July 16. However, Cincy has done anything but struggle since then, going 32-16 without the services of the best hitter in baseball. If Red Sox fans are looking for a team to follow the rest of the way and into the playoffs, may we suggest the Reds? They've got some good young players in Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman to go along with a nice mix of veterans like Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips. Votto has begun his rehab assignment, and if he can come back healthy, the Reds are a team no one wants to see this October.
Three Things to Watch This Week
1. Down on the farm
The Pawtucket Red Sox are in the odd position of being in the International League playoffs with a large of host of their regulars up with the big club. The PawSox are currently battling Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the IL playoffs, and they were able to win a nail-biter on Monday in which position players took the mound — in the playoffs. That's life in the minors, though, but at least the PawSox can provide some winning baseball for Sox fans, even if it is at the Triple-A level.
2. Big week for the Bombers
Cant the Yankees stop this skid? If they're going to, this week would be a pretty good time to do so. New York finishes up its series in Tampa Bay with two more against the Rays before heading to Baltimore for a huge four-game series with the Orioles. The Rays enter Tuesday 2 1/2 games back while the O's are just one back. You wouldn't be crazy to say the Yankees begin next week in second (or even third?) place in the East.
3. How the West might be won
The Giants have a chance to really distance themselves from the Dodgers in the NL West with a three-game set over the weekend. We're at the 2,100-word mark, so that's all we'll say about that.