The protective plastic sheeting from Toronto’s end-of-season celebration was still covering the lights in the visitor’s clubhouse at Boston’s Fenway Park on Saturday.
No reason to take it down.
They might need it again pretty soon.
The Cleveland Indians arrived in Boston with a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five A.L. Division Series and a chance to eliminate the Red Sox in Game 3 on Sunday. If they do, it will also be the end for Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, who will retire at the end of the season and will do everything he can before then to make sure that doesn’t come quite so soon.
“Everybody had it mapped out in their head in spring training what we wanted to do, knowing that David was not going to be here next year,” said Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who will try to keep the season going. “We reached the first goal, and that was to get in the playoffs and win the division. Second part of it has not worked out the first two games, but I don’t think there’s anybody on this team that’s more confident than David Ortiz about us moving forward.
“And whenever he comes to bat, he would love to put himself in the most pressure-packed position,” Buchholz said. “That’s just what he’s done over his career.”
After Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello and ace David Price failed to beat Cleveland in the first two games, Buchholz (8-10, 4.78 in 2016) will try to slow down an Indians offense that already has four homers in the series. He will face Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40), a former teammate from Angelina Junior College.
“This is a pretty cool story,” Buchholz said. “We talked about it the other day. He’s one of my good buddies. … It’s a small world when it comes to that.”
Tomlin said the two pitchers get together in the offseason and have been back to the school in Lufkin, Texas, to work out with their coach. When their teams play, they sometimes hang out or go out to lunch.
This year, they’ve had more to talk about than just their school days: Each of them has struggled this season and was bounced from his team’s rotation. After going 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in August, Tomlin made his next appearance out of the bullpen and didn’t start again until Sept. 14.
“The idea was to give him maybe a little of a break,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think what he actually did was he dug in and tried to figure out, `OK, what makes me a good pitcher and why?’ And I think he probably got to it quicker than the rest of us.”
Blue Jays head home
Aaron Sanchez was supposed to be in the Blue Jays bullpen by now. Instead, the All-Star right-hander will start against the Texas Rangers on Sunday night, hoping to pitch Toronto into the A.L. Championship Series.
When the 24-year-old Sanchez cracked Toronto’s starting rotation after a solid performance in spring training, the team said it planned to move him to a relief role at some point to limit his workload. The thinking was a full season of starting would be too much for a pitcher whose previous career high was 133 1-3 innings, reached at three levels in 2014.
“We were all set that he was going to eventually end up in the bullpen,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said as both teams worked out Saturday for Game 3 of the AL Division Series. “That was the plan in spring training.”
Those plans went out the window as Sanchez pitched like an ace, earned an All-Star berth, and led the AL with a 3.00 ERA.
—-Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano sustained a concussion when he was struck in the back of the head by Carlos Gomez’s line drive in Game 2 of the series.
Trainer George Poulis said Liriano felt good after undergoing tests Saturday but that there is no timetable for his return.
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