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Scene-setting from Gillette: Patriots look for 4-0 start without Tom Brady

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Cloudy skies are in the forecast for Patriots-Bills at Gillette. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO  —  Cloudy skies and temperatures approaching 60 degrees are expected at Gillette Stadium for the final game of the Tom Brady suspension.

Wind is not expected to be a factor and there is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

Entering the final game without Brady there is, ironically enough, a major question over who will be the starting quarterback.

WEEI’s Kirk Minihane reported Friday that Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to return from a one-game absence due to a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder and make the start. But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that the Patriots won’t make a final decision until Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett make it through pre-game warmups.

Brissett suffered a sprained right thumb in the win over the Texans on Sept. 22.

Both quarterbacks practiced all week but were limited.

Another player could make his return as Dont’a Hightower is hopeful to start after suffering a right knee injury in Week 1 against the Cardinals.

The Patriots are off to a 3-0 start for the tenth time in team history and the sixth time under Bill Belichick. The undefeated September was the 22nd perfect month in the Belichick era and the most of any team since 2000.

Chris Price has a scouting breakdown of what to expect in the matchup of two of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about the Patriots and Bills heading into the game.

The Patriots are 13-1 lifetime at Gillette Stadium against the Bills, with Buffalo’s only win coming in the 2014 season finale when Jimmy Garoppolo played the second half and the Bills came away with a 17-9 win. The Patriots had already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs on their way to capturing Super Bowl XLIX.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Sunday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: David Price vs. Aaron Sanchez

David Price

David Price

In Sunday afternoon’s regular-season finale at Fenway Park, Red Sox left-hander David Price will prepare for the postseason when he gets the start against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez.

Price is 17-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.200 WHIP. He leads the league with 34 starts and 225 innings pitched. In his last start on Tuesday, Price saw his nine-start unbeaten streak come to an end in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees that delayed the Red Sox’ AL East title. Price went 6 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on 12 hits (including three home runs) and a walk with two strikeouts.

“I’ve been throwing the baseball well the past couple of starts and to have a chance to clinch the division for us here, that’s not acceptable,” Price said (via MLB.com). “If our offense scores me four runs, I feel like I like I should go out there and be able to win. That hasn’t been the case a lot of the times this year, and that wasn’t the case tonight.”

Price has faced Toronto thrice this season — the last time on June 3 — going 1-1 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.180 WHIP. In 24 career appearances vs, the Jays, Price is 17-3 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.078 WHIP.

Aaron Sanchez

Aaron Sanchez

Sanchez is having a stellar third season in the majors, going 14-2 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.189 WHIP in 29 starts. The 24-year-old’s last outing was last Tuesday, when he went six innings and allowed one run on five hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts in a 5-1 victory over the Orioles — making him 4-0 against Baltimore this year.

“We’ve seen him quite a bit and it was another impressive outing for him,” Orioles outfielder/DH Mark Trumbo said. “He’s got a big-time fastball.”

Sanchez has faced the Red Sox three times this season, going 1-0 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.269 WHIP. Most recently he faced Boston on Sept. 11, lasting just 3 2/3 innings and giving up six runs on five hits and four walks with two strikeouts in an 11-8 Toronto loss.

Blue Jays vs. Price (LHP)

Jose Bautista (68 plate appearances): .345 AVG/.426 OBP/.724 SLG, 4 doubles, 6 home runs, 14 RBIs, 8 walks, 11 strikeouts

Edwin Encarnacion (54): .250/.315/.521, 1 double, 4 home runs, 9 RBIs, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts

Russell Martin (29): .200/.310/.200, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts

Josh Donaldson (19): .250/.368/.500, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Justin Smoak (13): .167/.231/.167, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Kevin Pillar (12): .167/.167/.417, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 5 strikeouts

Josh Thole (10): .111/.111/.111, 3 strikeouts

Troy Tulowitzki (10): .444/.500/.889, 1 double, 1 home run, 6 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Devon Travis is 3-for-9 with 1 strikeout.

Darwin Barney is 0-for-8 with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts.

Dioner Navarro is 1-for-7 with 1 home run and 2 RBIs.

Michael Saunders is 1-for-5 with 1 walk.

Ezequiel Carrera is 3-for-5.

Ryan Goins is 0-for-5 with 2 strikeouts.

Marco Estrada struck out in his only plate appearance.

Red Sox vs. Sanchez (RHP)

Xander Bogaerts (19 plate appearances): .158 AVG/.158 OBP/.158 SLG, 2 RBIs, 3 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (17): .214/.353/.286, 1 double, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Mookie Betts (15): .308/.400/.462, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Travis Shaw (14): 083/.214/.083, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (13): .444/.615/.556, 1 double, 1 RBI, 4 walks

Hanley Ramirez (11): .100/.182/.100, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Jackie Bradley Jr. (8): .429/.500/.857, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 1 walk

Ryan Hanigan is 0-for-6 with 1 walk and 1 strikeout.

Marco Hernandez is 1-for-5 with 1 walk.

Brock Holt is 1-for-4 with 1 walk and 1 strikeout.

Chris Young is 2-for-5 with 1 double and 2 strikeouts.

Christian Vazquez is 1-for-4 with 2 RBIs.

Bryan Holaday is 1-for-3 with 1 double, 1 RBI and 1 walk.

Sandy Leon is 0-for-1 with 1 walk.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Everything you need to know as Red Sox head into final regular season game

David Price will close out the regular season for the Red Sox Sunday. (NIck Churiaro/USA Today Sports)

David Price will close out the regular season for the Red Sox Sunday. (NIck Churiaro/USA Today Sports)

They’ve played 161 games. They still need another.

This we know: the Red Sox are in the postseasons, winners of the American League East division. They will be playing Cleveland in the AL Division Series, which starts Thursday.

After that, there is still plenty to digest as we wait for the Red Sox to finish off their regular season schedule, Sunday afternoon …

– When everybody wakes up Sunday morning, the Red Sox (93-68) will be 1/2 game in back of the Indians (93-67). But, the Sox own the tie-breaker with Cleveland. That’s important when trying to decipher who might end up with home-field advantage in the upcoming best-of-five showdown.

If the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, they will force the Indians to win both their Sunday tilt with Kansas City and a make-up game in Detroit in order to have the ALDS start at Progressive Field.

If the Red Sox lose Sunday, and the Indians beat KC, the series will start in Cleveland.

If the Red Sox lose against the Blue Jays, and Cleveland loses Sunday, the Indians would play Detroit Monday. Terry Francona’s team would then decide its own fate because of the tie-breaker.

– The Red Sox will have David Price going for them in the regular season finale, although manager John Farrell noted prior to Saturday’s game that his pitch count should be somewhat limited.

– Sunday’s game means a whole bunch to the Blue Jays, who are tied with Baltimore for the top Wild Card spot, with Toronto owning the tie-breaker. The Jays and O’s are 1 1/2 games in front of the Tigers, so even if Toronto loses to the Red Sox it is guaranteed at least another game, which would be against the Tigers if they won Sunday and Monday.

– Trevor Bauer will be pitching Game 1 for the Indians, presumably against Rick Porcello, with Corey Kluber slated to going up against the Red Sox’ likely Game 2 starter, David Price.

Josh Tomlin will pitch Game 3 for the Indians, who will likely bring back Bauer and Kluber for Games 4 and 5, respectively, if necessary.

Bauer, who started the season in the Indians’ bullpen, allowed three runs over six innings Saturday in Cleveland’s win over the Royals. For the season, the right-hander was 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA.

Bauer has struggled somewhat of late, totaling a 7.28 ERA over his last five starts. He had one start this season against the Red Sox, giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings in a 9-1 Sox win on May 21.

David Ortiz (4-for-5, HR) and Mookie Betts (3-for-5, HR) have had the most success against Bauer. And in his two career starts at Fenway, the 25-year-old has given up nine runs and 14 hits over 6 2/3 innings (12.15 ERA).

– The battle for the second Red Sox catching spot remains intriguing, with Christian Vazquez continuing to creep back into the postseason conversation.

Vazquez caught another solid outing from Eduardo Rodriguez, who has now struck out 22 in his last 10 1/2 innings while throwing to the catcher.

Farrell mentioned the concern about the Indians’ running game when talking what the Red Sox might be prioritizing with their backup catcher. With that in mind, Vazquez — with the return of his arm strength — would seem to get the edge over both Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan when it comes to catch-and-throw guys.

– Sunday should also reveal a possible hint at how the Red Sox might build their bullpen. Farrell had wanted to get Drew Pomeranz into a game over the weekend, but has yet to do so, with the lefty spending Saturday night’s game in the dugout. If Pomeranz does pitch, and proves his forearm soreness isn’t an issue, he could be line to be one of the lefty relievers for the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox keep 11 pitchers, like they did in all three rounds of the 2013 playoffs, it would seem as though Pomeranz and Robbie Ross Jr. would fill the quota for lefties in the Sox’ bullpen. But those rosters also carried a designated base-stealer in Quintin Berry, who was the kind of player this team doesn’t possess.

So it might come down to if the Red Sox believe Marco Hernandez is valuable enough as a good-but-not-great pinch-runner, or if they would rather use another lefty reliever, such as Robby Scott or Fernando Abad, to match-ups against the Indians’ lefty hitters.

In the last two months, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, Rajai Davis, Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall have all hit .225 or lower against left-handers. Of some note is the fact that Lindor is 0-for-4 against both Pomeranz and Abad.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

David Backes, David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen produce for Bruins in preseason win over Flyers

David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak

David Backes and David Pastrnak had three points apiece as the Bruins picked up a 4-3 shootout win over the Flyers in preseason action Saturday night.

Backes, who centered Pastrnak and Danton Heinen, had three assists in regulation, while Pastrnak had two goals and an assist. Heinen had one goal, bringing his preseason total to three in three games, and also scored in the shootout. Jake DeBrusk also scored for Boston in the shootout, while Malcolm Subban stopped two of three shots after making 29 saves on 32 shots during the course of play.

A first year pro, Heinen is a strong candidate to start the season in the NHL given that the Bruins are expected to be without Frank Vatrano until late December. The left-shot wing, who was drafted by the B’s in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and signed after his sophomore year at the University of Denver, will play in Providence if he doesn’t make Boston’s roster.

The Bruins are expected to announce roster cuts shortly. Their next preseason game will be played Tuesday against the Canadiens in Quebec City.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Report: Patriots won’t know who will start at QB against Bills until pregame warmups

The Patriots won’t know who is going to start at quarterback Sunday against the Bills until pregame warmups, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Garoppolo started the first two games, but was knocked out in the second quarter of the second game of the season against Miami, suffering a shoulder injury. Brissett took over for Garoppolo, and led the Patriots down the stretch in the win over the Dolphins, as well as a victory in Week Three against the Texans. However, he injured his thumb against Houston, putting his availability in doubt this week.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox confident closer can turn things around for postseason

Craig Kimbrel believes he can turn things around for the postseason. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel believes he can turn things around for the postseason. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Although closer Craig Kimbrel has had major issues of late, the Red Sox remain confident he can get things right for the postseason.

Kimbrel entered Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays in the ninth inning with the score knotted at three, but walked the lead off batter in Jose Bautista. Then, pinch-runner Dalton Pompey advanced to second on a sac bunt, third on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly for the game-winning run as the Jays beat the Red Sox, 4-3.

“I think it’s frustrating to struggle at any time,” Kimbrel said. “It doesn’t matter when it is in the season, but we have one more game tomorrow then we have a few days off going into the series. Hopefully in the next few days we’ll get it worked out then get a little rest and I’ll be good to go.”

Kimbrel has allowed six earned runs in his last four appearances, which includes six walks over three innings. His biggest meltdown came Wednesday in New York when the Red Sox cliched the AL East by way of a Blue Jays loss, but the Red Sox led 3-0 in the ninth and eventually lost 5-3 on a walk-off grand slam.

The Red Sox believe they have identified what the main issue is for their closer.

“Just the view from the dugout and film review and what exactly what continues to be worked on is he gets a little side-to-side and when you see the misses where he yanks to his glove side and will miss up and away to his arm side,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s not staying behind his arm as consistently as he has in many of his other outings. That’s an area we continue to work on as he’s getting loose and a throwing program.”

Kimbrel hasn’t totally been the same since returning from knee surgery in July. Before July 1, the right-hander hadn’t walked a batter in three straight outings since 2013. Since then, he’s done it twice. He also has a 5.12 ERA in non-save situations this year with 14 walks in 19 1/3 innings.

Despite this, Farrell said he is confident in him as the team’s playoff closer and he wouldn’t shy away from using him in non-save situations.

“Absolutely, I want the ball,” Kimbrel said when asked if he’s still confident. “The last few outings have been pretty disappointing. Nothing I can do about that, I just need to focus on the next series and the next time I get the ball.”

Pitching coach Carl Willis believes the pitcher will be able to make the adjustment before the playoffs begin Thursday.

“You know what, I think in his case a couple of things: with his experience, but also the type of pitcher he is,” Willis said. “He doesn’t have to have pinpoint accuracy with his stuff. I think it’s something we can correct very quickly.”

Overall, Kimbrel has had a solid first season in Boston as opponents are batting just .153 against him and he has 31 saves. The 28-year-old said he will get things right.

“I’ll get it squared away. You don’t have to worry about that,” he said.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Exclusive: Dustin Pedroia’s farewell message to David Ortiz

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have been teammates since 2006. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have been teammates since 2006. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

(The following is a note written by Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia to David Ortiz for WEEI.com.)

David, you’ve meant so much.

You’re one of the guys that taught me to be a major leaguer, respect the game, show up and play to win every day. That’s the reason you’re so great. It’s your preparation, and the way you show to work every single day. This has constantly inspired me.

You’ve always been team first, all about playing hard and wanting to win above everything else. That has rubbed off on every single player. I will always appreciate that. There’s a reason we’ve won and done some great thing, because of the presence and attitude you have brought.

I can’t think about what life is going to be like without you around. I’ll tell you this: I’m not looking forward to it. It is obviously going to be a huge hole. When you leave, there isn’t going to be anybody who will be able replace you. Nobody. Ever. And there’s nothing we we can do about that except just learn from the things you left with this organization.

David, you have made every single person in here better, including yours truly.

Now let’s go win a World Series!

Blog Author: 
Dustin Pedroia

Closing Time: Craig Kimbrel allows run in 9th inning as Blue Jays top Red Sox, 4-3

Craig Kimbrel had anothe rough ninth inning Saturday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Craig Kimbrel had another rough ninth inning Saturday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Welcome to October baseball.

Although it isn’t officially the postseason, the Red Sox and Blue Jays battled in what felt like a playoff game with the Jays eventually coming on top, 4-3.

As he has for much of the season, Craig Kimbrel struggled in a tie game once again.

The closer entered in the top of the ninth and walked the lead off batter Jose Bautista. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey advanced to second on a sac bunt, third on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly for the game-winning run.

The Red Sox’ magic number for homefield advantage in the ALDS over Cleveland remains at two.

Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, the Red Sox were able to tie the game in surprising fashion. The Sox had runners on first and second with no outs, but then a 4-6-3 double play set up a runner on third with two outs for Jackie Bradley Jr., but closer Roberto Osuma balked, giving Bradley Jr. home.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was at 102 pitches after the fifth inning and his night could have been done there, but he was brought back out for the sixth where he walked the lead off batter and was pulled from the game, but that run did hurt as Russell Martin scored on Kevin Pillar’s single up the middle to snap a 2-2 tie at the time.

Like they did Friday, the Red Sox wasted no time scoring as they scored two runs in the bottom of the first. Jays starter J.A. Happ walked three batters in the inning to load the bases with two outs and Chris Young came through with a two-out, two-RBI single to center field.

The Red Sox couldn’t hold the lead for long as Rodriguez promptly walked the first three batters of the second inning and the Jays got two runs on a Pillar two-RBI single to tie the game at two.

In his final game before the postseason, Rodriguez went five-plus innings, allowing three runs on three hits, but walked five batters and struck out nine.

Closing Time note

Dustin Pedroia snapped a 30-game hit streak against the Blue Jays. It was the longest ever against the club.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox’ loss:

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Rodriguez wasn’t all that bad, as he allowed just the three runs, but he was quite erratic. The left-hander will need to do a better job throwing strikes in the playoffs as walks typically prove costly in the postseason.

— Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-4. He is now in an 0-for-8 slump.

— Aaron Hill went 0-for-3 as it seems the lack of playing time has took him out of a rhythm.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— David Ortiz went 1-for-2 with a walk. He was removed from the game after a single in the fifth inning, likely to protect him from injury considering the wet conditions.

— With his single in the third inning, Mookie Betts has now hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games.

— Joe Kelly was outstanding in his two innings as he struck out four, including the side in the eighth. He has 20 strikeouts in 14 innings since his recall this month.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Cleveland’s Terrelle Pryor thought he was going to join Patriots last year

Terrelle Pryor thought he was coming to New England (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor thought he was coming to New England (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor is with the Browns, but a year ago, he would have bet anything he would have been a Patriot.

The Ohio State product, who has blossomed into an offensive chess piece in Cleveland, thought he was earmarked for New England last year after a workout and visit with the Patriots..

“I really thought I was going to be a Patriot,” Pryor told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I know Bill Belichick really liked me. I had a great workout for them and everything went really well. I really thought he was going to sign me.”

Pryor was cut by Cleveland, and was a free agent before re-signing with the Browns later in the year. He said the connection with New England didn’t happen due to concerns about a lingering hamstring injury.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder had 144 yards receiving, 21 yards rushing and 35 yards passing last week against the Dolphins while lining up at a variety of spots. How could he have been used by the Patriots? The possibilities boggle the mind.

Former Patriots front office staffer Mike Lombardi has lamented the fact that New England didn’t take a shot at Pryor.

“We blew it,” Lombardi recently said repeatedly on the Bill Simmons podcast. “The league often gives you a chance to be great, and if you don’t talk advantage of it, it’s your own fault and that was one of those times we didn’t take advantage of it in New England, clearly.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

David Ortiz’s father would have told his son to wait to announce retirement

David Ortiz's father explained he would have advised his son to hold off on announcing his retirement before the season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz’s father explained he would have advised his son to hold off on announcing his retirement before the season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

It’s too late now.

When David Ortiz announced on Player’s Tribune last offseason that he would be retiring at the end of the 2016 season, his father, Enrique “Leo” Ortiz, wasn’t aware of the news, having eventually gotten word while back in the Dominican Republic.

But now, looking back, Leo admitted Saturday that he would have pushed his son toward a different approach.

“I was in the Dominican Republic when he announced here in the States but if I was here, I would have told him not to announce his retirement, just because there are so many things that can happen in a season or you might have a change of heart after the season,” the elder Ortiz said. “If I were here, I would have told him to kind of stay neutral so that his options were more open so I wouldn’t have told him to retire.”

But, as ELeo explained it, once the decision was made by his son, there has been no attempt to get Ortiz to change his mind, despite what has been a historic season for the 40 year old.

“I haven’t told him anything like that about why he’s retiring because I know it’s coming from him and it’s his decision,” Leo said. “When I look back to 2013, I remember coming here to the field and I see him what looks like two casts on his feet. I said, what’s happening to my boy? Did he get into an accident or something? What he told me was this is how your son is making this money doing all this stuff before games. It’s not a surprise to me.”

As far as the moment Leo was most proud of his son on a baseball field, that was something Ortiz’s father wasn’t ready to narrow down.

“This guy has given me so much to be proud of over the years,” he said. “I remember when he was coming up in the league, I would try to correct him still even when he was in the big leagues and he told me, ‘Dad, I got it, I’m ready, I’m ready to play in the big leagues.'”

There was, however, that 2007 World Series ring Leo was wearing while talking to the media in the clubhouse prior to Saturday night’s game. Yet, he had a perfectly good explanation while it was that ring he chose to don heading into the Red Sox’ current postseason run.

“This is the ring that called the 2013 championship, so this is the one I’m going to wear because it’s the one that brings good luck and hopefully it brings another ring for 2016,” Leo said.

“He gives me the rings after every championship. I have all of the rings because he knows what’s up. The second thing I want to say publicly is that when he signed the five-year contract, I told the Red Sox he was going to earn every cent of that contract and he was going to earn it day by day, through hard work and told him, ‘I know you’re worth more than that amount of money, but I want you to earn every single cent of that contract.’ The next day he hit two home runs and a double.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford