Dan Shaughnessy

Tackling another hot sports topic

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / September 11, 2008
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We interrupt our 24/7 Brady Fallout coverage to remind you that there's a pennant race going on in Boston.

The Red Sox and first-place Tampa Bay Rays staged a five-plus-hour, 14-inning epic at the Fens last night. Carlos Pena's three-run homer into the Monster seats powered the Rays to a 4-2 victory in a game that didn't end until Alex Cora popped to center with the tying runs aboard at 12:10 this morning.

Truly amazing. Tuesday night it looked for all the world as if the Red Sox were finallly going to vault into first place after chasing Tampa for 53 days. But Jonathan Papelbon coughed up a ninth-inning lead, Tampa wound up winning the final two games, and the Rays flew out of town with a 2 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox have 17 games remaining and may wind up settling for a wild card this postseason because of what happened here over the last two days. The Sox and Rays play three more times next week at the Tropicana Dome, where Boston is 0-6 this season.

Did you know that Tom Brady played baseball? Yup. He went to the same high school (Junipero Serra) as Barry Bonds. The Montreal Expos drafted Brady as a catcher the 18th round in 1995. I'd love to tell you that Dan Duquette drafted Brady, but that would be a lie.

Now, back to the pennant race. The Rays this weekend play in New York, where the Yankees are lurching toward elimination/humiliation. The Sox, meanwhile, will play four games against the Blue Jays, who are suddenly playing like a bunch of guys in the final years of their contracts.

With 2 1/2 weeks left, we have identified three of the four American League playoff teams. The Red Sox and Rays are going to come out of the East and the Angels have won the West. All that's left is the identity of the Central winner, plus the order of finish in the East.

The White Sox and Twins are duking it out in the Central. And as you all know, Matt Cassel's brother Justin pitches in the White Sox farm system.

If the Red Sox finish ahead of Tampa, they get the winner of the Chicago-Minnesota bakeoff. If the Sox settle for the wild card, they play the Angels, opening a five-game set in Anaheim. Tom Brady just brought some property in Southern California.

Boston still has a chance to finish with the best record in the AL. This would guarantee home-field advantage through the World Series (the AL won the All-Star Game) and give the Sox the luxury of choosing whether to play Wednesday and Friday or Thursday and Friday in the first two games of the Division Series. Finishing hot and healthy served the Sox well in 2004 and 2007. A nice stretch run over these last 2 1/2 weeks could make life easier come October.

The Sox are hot. Despite losing the last two, they are 24-12 since saying no to Manny being Manny. Another white-hot team is the Houston Astros. Which reminds me, Matt Cassel's brother Jack pitches for the Astros.

Over in the National League, it's beginning to look like the Los Angeles Dodgers could be playing in the World Series. How great would it be if the Dodgers came to Fenway for the Fall Classic? Manny, D-Lowe, Nomar, and Joe Torre back at Fenway for the World Series? Bet Tom and Gisele would get seats in Henrytown for that one.

Sorry. It's just hard not to think about Brady, even during a 14-inning battle of contenders. Everyone is still thinking about Tom. Even Curt Schilling.

Did you hear? Schill ripped into New York fans' treatment of the Brady injury and somehow got himself on the cover of the Daily News - talking about Brady and New York fans.

You gotta love Schilling. The big lug is collecting $8 million for not pitching this year, and he's managed to make big news in the middle of the NBA playoffs (when he ripped Kobe Bryant as a bad teammate) and again at the beginning of the NFL season. Makes you wonder how John McCain could have gone for Sarah Palin over Schill.

There were some amazing numbers last night. Jason Bay went 0 for 7. The Rays went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position (2 for 36 in the series). David Ortiz executed his first sacrifice bunt since 2001 (which was the year Tom Brady became the starting quarterback of the Patriots). And Kevin Youkilis knocked in his 100th run.

It was Oakland general manager Billy Beane who dubbed Youk "the Greek god of walks." You probably didn't know that Beane drafted Matt Cassel in 2004.

The exhausted Red Sox and Rays are off today.


We can go back to thinking about Tom Brady.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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