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Welcome to Red Sox’ latest most important game of season

09.15.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka represents a fairly daunting obstacle for the Red Sox Thursday night. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka represents a fairly daunting obstacle for the Red Sox Thursday night. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

Dig in.

After Monday night, the playoff plans were percolating all throughout New England. You persevered against the Blue Jays, and now you were beating up on the other team nipping at the New Balances, the Orioles.

Now? It’s more talk of why the Red Sox can’t win close games, and the uneasiness that is about to hit 4 Yawkey Way courtesy the “We don’t give a @#&$, but you should” Yankees.

Every single time this pennant races suggests some certainty, along comes a day to keep the scales balanced. One week ago, the Red Sox were a game up in the American League East, with the third-place team two games out. Wake up Thursday, and you found the exact same scenario.

It has been, and continues to be, a pennant race aberration.

But there’s a very distinguishable reason for the inability of the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Mariners or Yankees to fall too far forward, or too far back. They are all, in some way or form, flawed. And now it’s just a matter of which team can exploit those under-bellies.

Wednesday night, it was the Orioles turn to turn the Red Sox over on their shell and start wailing away.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Masahiro Tanaka

09.15.16 at 9:07 am ET
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The Red Sox open a four-game series with the Yankees on Thursday night by sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound to face Masahiro Tanaka.

Rodriguez is 2-7 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP in 16 starts. On Saturday, the southpaw threw six innings, allowing three runs (two earned), four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Against the Yankees, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is 4-1 in six starts with a 1.88 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP. Rodriguez has faced the Yankees twice this year. In July, he threw seven innings, allowing just one run, four hits and two walks with one strikeout in a 5-2 Sox win. On Aug. 11, he pitched seven innings, giving up one run, three hits and one walk with six strikeouts in a 4-2 loss.

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Steven Wright says he isn’t going to rush back this time around

09.14.16 at 10:46 pm ET
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Steven Wright. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright has a different plan this time.

Unlike the first time he attempted to return from his right shoulder ailment — when it was two starts and done — Wright is simply eyeing what is immediately right in front of him. Right now, that is a trip to Fort Myers Sunday or Monday. (Although he hopes to throw a bit before heading to Florida.)

“Obviously there are still some tests I have to do, but the last two or three days I’ve got a pretty good response,” said Wright after the Red Sox’ 1-0 loss to the Orioles Wednesday night. “I keep telling myself I’m going to throw tomorrow, even if I don’t throw tomorrow I just feel like I have to mentally prepare to throw so when I do my mind is already set on it.”

So, what does that mean in terms of coming back before the end of the regular season? That sort of thinking isn’t entering the equation for the knuckleballer.

“Honestly, ever since I started taking it day by day things have gotten better,” he said. “I keep telling myself to take it day by day because I want to make sure I’m not worrying about tomorrow because tomorrow is not going to come for me, especially already having a setback, unless I’m taking care of today. So I feel once we kind of have that plan set in stone, things have been going good so I’m just going to stay with that same mentality.”

With 18 games remaining in the regular season, it would seem like a long-shot for Wright to rejoin a starting rotation that has just a few more turns. It’s a race against time that the 32-year-old, who last pitched on Aug. 31, has come to grips with.

“It’s hard because we all have that competitive side where we want to get out there and pitch, but when you physically can’t go out there and give it your best it’s a little easier to sit with it. It sucks,” he said. “It’s part of the game sometimes. You get hurt and you get banged up to the point you can’t perform. You just have to be patient with it and trust your body is going to treat itself, and trust the medical staff. We’ve got a good medical staff. I’ve done a lot of good work with Paul. And things are looking really good so I’m going to just continue to work toward that goal. Even if I don’t come back this year I just want to make sure whenever the season is over for me that I’m physically ready to go into the offseason 100 percent to get ready for spring training.”

Wright currently is 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 24 starts, having notched four complete games.

Closing Time: Mark Trumbo homer difference in handing Rick Porcello first Fenway Park loss this season

09.14.16 at 9:45 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia argues a called third strike Wednesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia argues a called third strike Wednesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello has done nothing but dominate hitters at Fenway Park this season. Wednesday was no different, except for just one guy.

Mark Trumbo’s first-inning solo homer was all it took to end Porcello’s streak of Fenway wins, handing the Orioles a 1-0 win Wednesday night. The Red Sox starter, who went on to retire 17 in a row at one point, is now 13-1 in his 15 home outings this season.

Trumbo’s 42nd homer of the season led off the second, and traveled 447 feet.

“He’s got as much power as anyone in the game. And if you don’t make your pitches, you see what he can do with it,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Three batters later there was another brief moment of concern, as Porcello took a 104 MPH liner from J.J. Hardy off of his left calf, causing him to hobble around for a moment. He remained in the game after a visit from the medical staff and a few warmup pitches. It was after that single to Hardy that the 27-year-old settled in, proceeding to go on his run of 17-straight outs.

Farrell noted Porcello was fine from taking the line shot and that after he threw the warmup pitches it “wasn’t an issue.”

Porcello departed the game after eight innings, allowing just four hits with six strikeouts while not surrendering a walk. With the loss, he fell to 20-4.

“I mean, we lost and it’s a big game. There’s no satisfaction in that,” Porcello said. “We’re not playing for personal numbers, we’re playing to win. This was a big game for us. We were hoping to take the series from them but that being said, we still have a one-game lead and we get them for four at their place and we’ve got a tough series coming up in New York. A lot of big baseball to be played and we’re still in good position.”

“Rick was outstanding, he settled in, he takes a ball off the calf, was able to maintain staying loose, he got better as the game went on,” Farrell said. “This was a classic pitchers duel. Both [Porcello and Orioles starter Kevin Gausman] had their A-game working. A one-pitch swing of the bat from Trumbo is the difference in it.”

The Red Sox’s best opportunity came in the seventh inning, as Hanley Ramirez hit a one-out single and was moved to third two batters later on a Chris Young single. With two outs, however, Sandy Leon squandered the opportunity for an equalizer, with an ugly three-pitch strikeout.

Orioles closer Zach Britton things out, getting David Ortiz, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez for his 43rd save in 43 chances.

The Red Sox had a perfect opportunity in their hands entering the game to continue to make the distance atop the division even further. The Blue Jays had gotten blown out by the Rays, and the Dodgers snuck by the Yankees. A win against the Orioles would have helped them pick up an ever-important game on all three of their contending division rivals. Instead, the Sox are no one game up on the O’s, and two over the Blue Jays.

“The best way to describe it is we don’t anticipate anything different here on all the way out.” Farrell said when asked about the tight A.L. East race. “This is going to be a hard-fought division right to the final game of the season. And we fully embrace it, we fully expect it, and we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

The Red Sox will begin a four-game set against the Yankees on Thursday.

(For an entire box score, click here.)

Closing Time note

Rick Porcello made it nearly a year between home losses, with his last home loss coming on Sept. 23 of last season against the Rays.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Entering the game having reached safely in his previous 11 starts, Sandy Leon had a night to forget, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. His three-pitch strikeout with two outs in the seventh ended the Red Sox’ best chance of runs, as he stranded Hanley Ramirez on third and Chris Young on first.

— No one stood out at the plate, with no Red Sox getting more than one hit or an extra base hit.

— Dustin Pedroia ended his streak of reaching base at least once at 33 games. He also went hitless for just the third time in his last 23 contests.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Travis Shaw had a terrific night defensively, most notably when he made a sliding stop and executed the throw across the diamond to get Manny Machado at first base to end the sixth inning.

— All of the Red Sox’ offense was generated in the middle of the lineup, with the 4-5-6-7 hitters each grabbing a hit apiece.

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Red Sox Pregame Notes: Steven Wright to report to Fort Myers after current homestand; Andrew Benintendi likely to be in lineup vs. Yankees

09.14.16 at 6:48 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

Prior to Wednesday’s matchup against the Orioles, Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed the future for a pair players trying to return from injury in Steven Wright and Andrew Benintendi.

Wright was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 14 (retroactive to August 8) with a shoulder strain after hurting it while pinch running against the Dodgers. And now with time ticking to get Wright some time on the mound before the regular season concludes, things are still very much up in the air.

“[There is] no real significant change to his throwing program. That’s still yet to be initiated, so while the rehab and the treatment and the symptoms decrease and the strengthening continues, we’re still yet to put a ball in his hand,” Farrell said. “He’s going to travel and report to Fort Myers after this homestand with the hope that a throwing program can be not only initiated, but we’ll see if he’ll be able to withstand an accelerated one where he’s got the ability to throw to hitters at some point.

“So that’s a best case scenario at this point. If the throwing program is not initiated soon, then the rehab will continue to intensify until we’re up against the clock a little bit in terms of his availability.”

Since returning to the Red Sox on August 26, Wright was lit up in his two outings, allowing a combined nine runs in as many innings with 14 hits. He noted that he had been throwing with about 50 percent strength. Two medical opinions, however, have stated there is no structural damage.

The uncertainty of Wright’s health and the wait and see scenario it puts the Red Sox in is making it challenging to establish a timetable for a potential return — especially during the regular season.

“Again it’s all going to be dependent upon when he initiates a throwing program. We recognize there’s 18 games left, he’s going to have to build up some. I don’t want to rule it out, but at this point it’s going to become a little bit more challenging with each passing day.”

Though activated from the disabled list Tuesday, Benintendi is not in the lineup for Wednesday’s game, due largely to the form O’s starter Kevin Gausman is in as well as left fielder Chris Young’s recent success as well.

Benintendi missed 17 games with a left knee sprain after jamming it up in between bases against the Rays in August. He has since been wearing a custom brace and working to get his way back to full health and into the lineup, and Farrell indicated he could be seen as a starter as soon as the upcoming Yankees series.

“We’ve got a guy, a right-hander in Gausman who’s got some reverse splits. So just looking at how he matches up, Andrew hasn’t been in a game in three weeks, maybe the importance of tonight in terms of this particular series — we’ve got three right handers coming with New York the first three games. I’m sure we’ll see Andrew on the field in that series,” Farrell said.

Other Red Sox Notes

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Ben Cherington is ‘going to make a great contribution’ in Toronto according to John Farrell

09.14.16 at 6:46 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Now that former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is gainfully employed once again in baseball, John Farrell discussed the administrator that the Blue Jays just landed.

“He was great in understanding what his vision was. For those who worked most closely with him, he was always able to articulate what he wanted to see from not only the organization, but individual departments that would be an integral piece to that overall organization,” Farrell said. “So from that standpoint, he was great.”

Cherington was hired by the Jays as their Vice President of Baseball Operations on Tuesday afternoon, putting an end to his hiatus as a baseball operations individual that began when him and the Red Sox parted ways last season.

Farrell was hired by Cherington as the Red Sox manager entering the 2013 season, and the Sox skipper noted that he and Cherington have spoken since his departure, but merely an occasional text message and nothing at length. While with the Red Sox, however, Farrell worked with Cherington exceptionally close, giving him one of the best assessments available of the new Jays’ vice president’s abilities.

“He was very even-keeled,” Farrell said. “One of Ben’s traits was — he would get excited, don’t get me wrong, and he’s a tremendous competitor — but still at the same time very even-keeled. Very thoughtful in his comments, and you always knew where you stood with him. And no matter who he works for, obviously now it’s Toronto, he’s going to make a great contribution, there’s no doubt.”

Cherington, a New Hampshire native, built the World Series-winning team in 2013 after his promotion to general manager following the 2011 season. And though oft-criticized for making deals with players that did not work out, the current team that sits 18 games above .500 also has multiple traces of Cherington in it.

“His legacy is left here, there’s imprints all over this current team,” Farrell said.

While away from baseball, Cherington was an instructor at Columbia University in New York, a role that Farrell noted was a seamless fit for him.

“For all of us that got to know Ben, the fact that he went and served as an instructor at Columbia was not a surprise. He’s got a tremendous amount of introspect and looks at things differently. I think he’s a teacher and a builder at heart, and to be involved in a leadership course that he was at Columbia, it kind of fit what’s important to him.”

And now that Cherington is back in baseball, it ends not only his absence from the game, but also an era in which his name was often thrown around with open administrative positions around the league.

“You hear his name talked about with vacancies around the game, and it’s not a surprise. He’s got a pretty wide range of experiences as a front office guy, and I think Toronto’s added a quality person and a guy with a tremendous amount of experience.”

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Ben Cherington joins Blue Jays as vice president of baseball operations

09.14.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington has a job again.

After just over a year out of baseball, the former Red Sox general manager has taken a job with the Blue Jays as their vice president of baseball operations, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

Cherington spent last spring teaching teaching at Columbia University after leaving the Red Sox last August.

According to Shi Davidi, Cherington will focus on player development, which he did a great job with when he was with the Red Sox. Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Travis Shaw, Xander Bogaerts and more are all credited to Cherington.

Cherington reportedly turned down an interview with the Twins for their vacant general manager position before accepting this position with Toronto.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Red Sox Lineup: Sandy Leon replaces Ryan Hanigan behind the plate for series finale vs. Orioles

09.14.16 at 3:10 pm ET
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Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon

After struggling to find a timely hit in Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Orioles, the Red Sox will make just one change to the lineup, swapping Sandy Leon for Ryan Hanigan behind the plate.

Leon will hit eighth with Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting ninth.

In eight starts in the month of September, Leon has managed at least one hit in each game. He pinch-hit for Hanigan in the eighth inning on Tuesday, but grounded out to shortstop J.J. Hardy to end the inning.

Even after being activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, left fielder Andrew Benintendi is not in the lineup. Chris Young will patrol left on Wednesday.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Chris Young, LF
Sandy Leon, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Rick Porcello, RHP

For an extensive look at the pitching matchup, click here.

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Red Sox 2017 schedule is out and it involves the Cubs

09.14.16 at 1:06 pm ET
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Red Sox 2017 Schedule

Jon Lester

Jon Lester

As expected, the Red Sox will open the 2017 season at Fenway Park against the Pirates before heading to Detroit for a three-game set against the Tigers.

But undoubtedly the most anticipated early-season series comes against the Cubs, who will travel to Fenway Park for three-game set, April 28-30.

For inter-league play, the Red Sox will be taking on teams from the National League Central Division. Like this season, the Sox will find themselves playing without the designated hitter during the season’s final month, playing visitors to the Reds, Sept. 22-24, for their last regular season road trip.

The Red Sox finish off the schedule with two home series, against Toronto and Houston, respectively.

May is lining up to present a challenge for the Red Sox, who play 12 of their first 15 games that month on the road. The swing includes trips to Minnesota, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Oakland.

After the trip to take on the A’s, the next West Coast foray for the Sox comes June 23-25, when they follow up a three-game set in Kansas City with three more against the Angels.

Click here for the entire schedule.

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Rick Porcello vs. Kevin Gausman

09.14.16 at 10:42 am ET
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The Red Sox will send 20-game winner Rick Porcello to the mound Wednesday night to face Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman in the teams’ series finale at Fenway Park.

Porcello is an MLB-leading 20-3 with 3.21 ERA and a 1.022 WHIP in 29 starts, and he is 13-0 at Fenway. Porcello has been dominant in his last nine starts, going at least seven innings and giving up three earned runs or fewer in each of those starts, the best streak in the majors. His last time out, Friday against the Blue Jays, he pitched seven innings, allowing two runs, six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in a 13-3 Sox win.

“It’s definitely a huge honor,” Porcello said after becoming the first Boston pitcher to win 20 games since Josh Beckett in 2007. “It’s hard to win one game in the big leagues, let alone 20. I’m definitely very proud of that.”

Against the Orioles, Porcello is 3-7 with a 5.61 ERA and a 1.455 WHIP in 13 starts. In his last start against Baltimore, on June 2, Porcello threw six innings, allowing five runs, six hits and no walks with three strikeouts in Boston’s 12-7 loss.

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