Wednesday September 21, 2011 | 06:16 AM

Botched opportunity Tuesday night for the Boston Red Sox.

While Boston still moved a game closer to clinching the Wild Card berth (thanks to Tampa Bay's loss to New York), the Red Sox need to clinch this thing soon if they are going to have a chance in the playoffs (will explain in a minute).

First, back to the blown chance Tuesday. Pitching will be blamed in the 7-5 loss to Baltimore. But, for the second time in two days, poor fielding in the outfield led to Baltimore runs.

On Monday, in Boston's 6-5 loss, left fielder Darnell McDonald misplayed two balls, allowing the Orioles to take a 2-0 lead.

Tuesday's play by right fielder Josh Reddick was worse. With the game tied 1-1 in the third, Reddick initially moved in on a line drive, then jumped back, only to have the ball bounce out of his glove. Instead of the inning being over, Baltimore went on to score 3 unearned runs for a 4-1 lead. Erik Bedard, on a tight pitch count, left the game.

Now, back to why Boston needs to clinch soon: If the Red Sox need to use Josh Beckett and Jon Lester at the end of the season, they won't be available for the first two games of the post-season (Sept. 30 and Oct 1).

Beckett goes for Boston tonight, and that's good news for Red Sox fans.

Beckett's next start would not come again until next Tuesday (he could pitch Monday, but Terry Francona said either Bedard or John Lackey will pitch ... that could change).

Boston hopes to have clinched the Wild Card by Tuesday. Because if Beckett is needed to pitch Tuesday. AND if Jon Lester is required to pitch the last game of the season, next Wednesday, then Boston is in trouble in the Divisional Playoffs.

The Red Sox would play its first two games of the playoffs, in Detroit or Texas, without Beckett and Lester.

What do you think Boston's chances would be?

In other pitching news, Clay Buchholz reported no problems after his 32-pitch simulated game on Tuesday. He supposed to pitch another one Thursday or Friday and, possibly, be ready next week.

Buchholz would obviously be limited. So what about a Buchholz/Alfredo Aceves combination?

The Rays and Yankees play a doubleheader today. Tampa Bay should be favored this afternoon. The Rays have James Shields (15-11, 2.78) going against TBA (Phil Hughes is the scheduled starter, but his back is acting up).

Tonight, New York's CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.01) goes for his 20th win against Jeremy Hellickson (11-7, 3.95 ERA).

While Boston has Beckett (13-5, 2.50), Baltimore has Tommy Hunter (4-4, 4.81). Hunter was obtained from the Rangers in July. The last time Hunter pitched in Fenway was July 15, 2010, when he beat the Red Sox, limiting Boston to 5 hits and 2 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings.

Now for the standings: 

AL East
New York 93-60
Boston 88-67 (6 back)
Tampa Bay 85-68 (8)

Wild Card
Boston 88-67
Tampa Bay 85-68 (2 back)
LA Angels 83-70 (4.5)

New York's magic number to clinch the division: 3.

Boston's magic number to clinch the wild card: 7.

Remaining Games:
NEW YORK (9): Tampa Bay (3), Boston (3), at Tampa Bay (3).

BOSTON (7): Baltimore (1), at New York (3), at Baltimore (3).

TAMPA BAY (9): at New York (3), Toronto (3), New York (3).

The playoff seeds at the moment:
1. New York 93-60
2. Detroit 89-65
3. Texas 89-65
4. Boston (wild card)


About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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