Remember when it looked like there wouldn't be any real drama in late-September? Funny what a couple of crazy weeks can do.
After the Red Sox lost to the Orioles on Monday and the Rays topped the Yankees, we officially have a tie in the American League Wild Card race with just two games left on the calendar.
Josh Beckett came up small in Monday's loss, allowing six runs over six innings, the big blow of which was a three-run inside-the-park home run by Robert Andino. The Red Sox had their chances to catch up, loading the bases in the eighth inning and bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but failed to close the gap. With the loss, Boston dropped to 6-19 in September.
As for the Rays, they got yet another huge performance from "Big Game" James Shields. While he got off to a shaky start, the 29-year-old right-hander limited the first-place Yankees two runs over 8 2/3 innings in the victory, falling just one out short of his 12th complete game of the season. After posting a 5.18 ERA last season, Shields will finish the regular season with a shiny 2.84 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
The Red Sox will send Erik Bedard to the hill Tuesday night against Zach Britton while Jeremy Hellickson will go for the Rays against Bartolo Colon. Jon Lester is expected to pitch Wednesday's game, but if there's a tie-breaker on Thursday, it would likely be all hands on deck for Boston. Though at this point, the Red Sox would probably be thrilled if they were even still alive on Thursday.
While the Red Sox continue to make history with their stunning September collapse, here are some more news and notes from a busy Monday around the baseball world.
* It appears the Marlins are finally close to getting their man.
The White Sox announced following Monday's game that manager Ozzie Guillen was released from his contract in order to pursue other opportunities. The outspoken skipper had one year left on his contract, but made it clear on a number of occasions that he wanted an extension. This may not officially go down as a trade, as reported in various outlets Monday night, but the White Sox will receive compensation if Guillen manages elsewhere in 2012.
While there's nothing official yet, Guillen is widely expected to be named as the Marlins' new manager as they prepare to open a new ballpark next season at the site of the former Orange Bowl. It's probably no coincidence that interim manager Jack McKeon announced Monday that he intended to retire while the Marlins held interviews with multiple candidates, including Nationals third base coach Bo Porter.
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* I would be remiss if I didn't give the National League Wild Card its just due in this space, as the race between the Braves and Cardinals has been plenty exciting.
The Cardinals actually had a chance to grab a share of the Wild Card lead after the Braves fell to the Phillies on Monday night, but they failed to take advantage against the last-place Astros. After tying the game with two runs in the top of the eighth inning, they ultimately lost on a squeeze bunt by Angel Sanchez in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The Braves remain one game in front of the Cardinals with two games left to play. They'll send Derek Lowe to the mound Tuesday night against Roy Oswalt while Jake Westbrook will pitch for St. Louis against Henry Sosa. It's certainly no lock since Lowe is 0-for-4 with an 8.24 ERA over four starts this month, but if the Braves win Tuesday and the Cardinals lose, this race is over.
* In my final "Waiver Wired" column of the season last Thursday, I promised a couple of streaming options for Tuesday's Daily Dose. In truth, there aren't many quality options still widely available, but here are a pair of under-the-radar names to consider.
Wednesday @ Twins
What better way to finish the season than a start against the light-hitting Twins? The matchup is favorable enough, but Chen has actually been pretty decent on his own this season, posting a 3.98 ERA and 93/48 K/BB ratio over 147 innings. In case you are having any doubts, remember that the veteran left-hander allowed just two hits over eight innings of shutout ball against these very same Twins back on September 13.
Wednesday @ Giants
Yes, Pomeranz was roughed up in a start against the Astros on Friday night, but he was solid in his first two outings in the big leagues, including a start against the Giants back on September 17. It's a bit of a gamble, to be sure, but the 22-year-old southpaw has three quality pitches in his arsenal and I consider him an early sleeper for 2012.
NL Quick Hits: NL MVP candidate Matt Kemp hit his 38th home run of the season in Monday's win over the Diamondbacks … Carlos Gonzalez (wrist) has been shut down for the rest of the season while Troy Tulowitzki (hip) is only available in an emergency … Jose Reyes went 3-for-4 with a double in Monday's loss to the Reds, taking a slim lead over Ryan Braun for the NL batting crown … Justin Upton was held out of Monday's lineup for precautionary reasons after being hit in the bill of the helmet by Tim Lincecum on Sunday … Mike Morse slugged a go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning in Monday's win over the Marlins … Andrew McCutchen was scratched from Monday's lineup after being hit in the lower abdomen during batting practice, but expects to play Tuesday … The Brewers have scratched Yovani Gallardo from his scheduled start Wednesday … The Giants have shut down Brian Wilson (elbow) for the rest of the season … Aramis Ramirez (quad) is expected to return to the Cubs' starting lineup Tuesday … Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that Pablo Sandoval will likely be able to avoid surgery on his strained left shoulder ... Francisco Cordero told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday that he is optimistic about returning to the Reds next season … Shaun Marcum was knocked around for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings Monday against the Pirates … Mat Latos tossed seven scoreless inning in Monday's win over the Cubs … Rafael Furcal left Monday's game with a left hamstring injury … According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Marlins might look to trade Ricky Nolasco this offseason … Jair Jurrjens (knee) is scheduled to make another instructional league appearance Thursday and hasn't been ruled out for the NLDS … According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins and Omar Infante have agreed to a two-year contract extension … Angel Pagan (head) is likely done for the season … Chris Heisey homered and drove in three runs in Monday's win over the Mets … Tommy Hanson (shoulder) did not throw his scheduled bullpen session Sunday due to lingering soreness and is doubtful to return during the postseason … Peter Moylan will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff …
AL Quick Hits: Robinson Cano hit his 28th home run of the season in Monday's loss to the Rays … Jose Bautista (knee) went 0-for-2 with three walks in his return to the lineup Monday … Doug Fister struck out nine over eight innings of shutout ball in Monday's win over the Indians … Dan Haren allowed four runs (three earned) over innings in Monday's loss to the Rangers, officially eliminating the Angels from playoff contention … Though Kevin Youkilis (hip, hernia) is "doubtful" to play against the Orioles this week, the Red Sox aren't ready to shut him down … Mark Trumbo has been shut down for the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his right foot … Asdrubal Cabrera (elbow) went 1-for-3 with a strikeout in his return to the lineup Monday … Mike Moustakas continued his late-season surge with a home run and a double in Monday's win over the Twins… Ubaldo Jimenez was knocked around for six runs over five innings in his final start of the season Monday against the Tigers … Jason Vargas struck out a career-high 10 over eight innings of one-run ball Monday in a win over the Athletics … Delmon Young went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI in Monday's win over the Indians ... Clay Buchholz (back) threw 18 pitches Monday during an instructional league appearance … Jarrod Saltalamacchia exited Monday's game after taking a foul tip below his right collarbone, but X-rays came back negative … Carlos Guillen will likely miss the ALDS due to a right calf strain … Dylan Axelrod tossed six shutout innings in Monday's win over the Blue Jays … Jason Varitek (knee) was scratched from Monday's lineup against the Orioles … Francisco Cervelli (concussion) could soon be ready to catch a bullpen session … Ryan Sweeney (quad) isn't expected to play again this season …