And that sigh of relief you hear is from Foxboro, since it appears Gagne and Francona have managed to finally place Videogate on a back burner.
SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED? Sean McAdam has the details of a crushing 4-3 loss in Toronto that got away when the Red Sox -- attempting to get Gagne ready for his anticipated postseason role of eighth-inning bridge to Jonathan Papelbon -- stuck with what we media types would call "the embattled reliever" through a two-out, five-batter implosion that went walk/single/walk/walk/double, allowing three Toronto runs to score. Sean quotes Francona as saying he left Gagne in because ''that’s (Gagne’s) inning to get out of. There are a lot of long-term reasons to keep him out there and have success,'' an indication the Sox are still thinking big picture at a time when the division title is very much in play. There is, as you would expect, much angst in Red Sox Nation over this philosophy -- especially since it's the despised Yankees making the charge to the top -- but the Boston Herald's Tony Massarotti says the Sox ''are in tune-up mode with regard to the postseason . . . [They] are not about to sacrifice potential postseason success simply so they can say they won the division.'' Since any postseason success they will have depends on Gagne succeeding in the role he was in last night, Francona's decision becomes more understandable.
MORE BIG PICTURE STUFF: One of the reasons Clay Buchholz is pitching tonight is because the Red Sox are lining up their pitching for the playoffs. (projo.com) Buchholz is rested and, he says, ready to go. (Boston Herald) Speaking of pitching and the playoffs, Jim Donaldson doesn't think the Sox have enough of it to win in the postseason. (projo.com)
INTERESTING TAKE: Gagne seemed to be overthrowing as the inning progressed last night, which led to a loss of command, and Alex Cora, who was a teammate of Gagne's in Los Angeles (where Gagne was as dominant a reliever as ever pitched), thinks he knows why. Gagne, he points out, hasn't had to deal with failure very much in his career which led him to get ''away from certain things that make him successful.'' (Boston Herald)
GUTTING IT THROUGH: The Red Sox' lineup is depleted -- Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp are all on the sidelines -- so David Ortiz is playing through knee pain that normally would keep him on the bench. (Boston Herald)
STILL HURTING: Ramirez is still feeling pain from the injury to his oblique muscle and isn't ready to get back in the lineup. (Boston Globe)
MEANWHILE . . . everything's coming up roses in Yankee Universe. The previously declared dead Mike Mussina stifled the Orioles -- not that that's a big trick, but it seemed beyond Moose's capabilities not so long ago -- and the Yank offense continued its obliteration of substandard pitching in a 12-0 win that pulled them to within 2 1/2 games of the Red Sox. (New York Post) How well are things going for them now? Even Doug Mientkiewicz is chipping in. (New York Daily News) YU is intoxicated with the notion of overtaking the Red Sox, but the New York Post's Jay Greenberg says that shouldn't be their first priority; now that the playoffs are all but assured, the Yanks need some rest before the postseason starts, and they shouldn't empty the tank in an effort to catch, and then hold off, Boston.
DESPITE ALL THAT . . . the Red Sox are still No. 1 in SI.com's Power Rankings.
ET TU, COWBOY? Kevin Millar, of all people, says the Yankees are the team to beat. (New York Daily News)
ANTICLIMACTIC ENDING: Preliminary versions of the 2008 schedule have the Yankees closing the regular season in Boston on Sept. 28, meaning the final regular-season game in Yankee Stadium history -- the new stadium should be ready for Opening Day 2009 -- won't be the last game of the year. (New York Daily News) Yankee officials were surprised, since they assumed they'd be closing the season at home and, according to the Daily News, ''had planned a host of festivities around the event.'' But an MLB executive noted that the Mets also are opening a new stadium in 2009 and therefore will be playing their last game at Shea in 2008. Since the New York teams can't be home at the same time, one of them would have to be away the final weekend.
A.L. RACES: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto has declared the A.L. Central race to be over, and it probably is after the Indians increased their lead over the Tigers to 6 1/2 games with another come-from-behind win over the reeling Tigers (Akron Beacon Journal) The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg writes the Tigers' obituary in both the division and wild-card races, and he's probably right, too; Detroit's now five games behind the Yankees in the loss column and the teams appear headed in completely opposite directions. The Indians' focus now should be securing the best record in the American League, and they're tied with the Red Sox and Angels in the loss column. Los Angeles of Anaheim kept pace with Cleveland, and gained on Boston, with another one-run win over Tampa Bay. (Los Angeles Daily News)
END OF THE LINE? It appears that wherever the Angels go this postseason they'll have to get there without Bartolo Colon, who apparently has played his last game for LA of A. (Los Angeles Times)
N.L. RACES: Normally we just link to the stories of playoff-important games, but the Mets' collapse deserves some notice. They lost their fifth straight last night as they blew a 7-3 lead in their 9-8 loss to the Nationals (New York Post), and the Phillies are now only 1 1/2 games back after they beat the Cardinals in 14 innings. (Philadelphia Inquirer) And FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal says don't listen to the be-calm/all-is-well bleatings of Willie Randolph; the Mets, he asserts, are in real trouble.
As for the rest of it, the Brewers beat the Astros (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel); the Dodgers lost a doubleheader to the Rockies (Los Angeles Times), all but eliminating them from the playoff chase in both the N.L. West and the wild card; the Cubs lost to the Reds (Chicago Tribune); the Diamondbacks beat the Giants (Arizona Republic), and the Padres beat the Pirates (San Diego Union-Tribune).
AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: Even if they hold on, the Mets may not have Orlando Hernandez for the playoffs. (New York Daily News)
HERE'S THE REASON: Astros manager Cecil Cooper called commissioner Bud Selig to explain why Houston is starting three rookie pitchers in its series against the Brewers. (Houston Chronicle) Apparently, some members of the Cubs' front office -- Chicago is battling Milwaukee for the N.L. Central title -- complained.
WE LIKEY: Fans in Milwaukee have flocked to Miller Park in record numbers this year as the team surged into contention. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
QUICKLY: Carlos Guillen says he's willing to move off shortstop but only if the Tigers get a Gold Glover to replace him, which -- as far as Guillen is concerned, at least -- would preclude Detroit's much-rumored acquisition of Jack Wilson (Detroit Free Press) . . . The Rangers were surprised at the length of Vicente Padilla's suspension for his role in Sunday's fight with Nick Swisher of the A's (Dallas Morning News) . . . And the Mets' Marlon Anderson was upset at his two-game suspension for arguing balls and strikes, and then flinging his helmet, Saturday night (Newsday) . . . The Brewers are trying to convince closer Francisco Cordero to re-sign with Milwaukee (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).
OLD FRIENDS: David Wells says he'd consider retiring if he won a championship ring this year. With the way the Dodgers are going, it looks like he'll be back in 2008, at least if someone wants him (Los Angeles Times).
-- ART MARTONE
High Hopes | September 19, 2007 2:17 PM link