Red Sox Clinch

Another team takes the plunge into the playoffs.

The Boston Red Sox clinched a spot in the postseason Tuesday night, sliding past the almighty Cliff Lee with the help of a two-run home run from Kevin Youkilis. Youk also walked three times.

That leaves one spot left in the American League, which will go to the winner of the AL Central. There are three spots left in the National League. The NL East needs to be settled, the NL West isn't quite finished, and, of course, there's always the Wild Card.

It looks like the White Sox should close out the AL Central, but it remains a tight race. The Twins are just 1 « games back with five to play. If they can figure out their recent pitching woes, the Twinkies might bring that thing down to the wire. Over in the NL East, there's an almost identical situation. The Phillies lead the Mets by 1 « games, but Philadelphia has just four games left to play. The Metropolitans have five. A couple of days ago, when it looked like the Brewers were toast, the Mets seemed to at least have the Wild Card wrapped up. "Not so fast, my friends," as the ever-annoying Lee Corso would say. The Brewers have won two in a row and topped the Pirates with a Prince Fielder walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday. They're a single game back of the Mets in the Wild Card hunt and will play five more. The NL West is a little easier to predict. The Dodgers hold a three-game lead over the Diamondbacks and don't appear likely to give it up. You can count on both Los Angeles teams showing up for October baseball.

These are all situations worth monitoring. Ha, like I even needed to say that. You're a baseball fan, of course you're following the standings. But, seriously, if you have fantasy ownership of a player or players on the Mets, Brewers, Twins, White Sox, Dodgers, and/or Diamondbacks, consider yourself a lucky man. The stars aren't coming out of those lineups. If you own a guy that has already been part of a clinching ceremony, it presents some minor issues. Monitor their lineups daily, as your man might be getting some extra rest. Before I bore you all to death with stuff you already know, let's get to some notes from around baseball.

* Tim Lincecum allowed six runs, four of which were earned, in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday night in a loss to the Rockies. The start bumped his ERA up to 2.66, dropping him to second on the leaderboard behind Johan Santana (2.64). Lincecum still has a handsome major league-lead in strikeouts, but it severely hurts his Cy Young candidacy that he no longer holds the ERA crown. His win total of 17 is unimpressive when compared to Brandon Webb's 22. Luckily for Timmy Boy, the Giants have already rearranged their pitching rotation to allow him the final start of the regular season. He can win this award with that start. But, as Matthew Pouliot pointed out Tuesday night, what are the long-term consequences to this push for a piece of metal? Lincecum will end up with 225+ innings and he's gone well over 100 pitches in far too many starts this season. He made it just over 200 innings between the Giants and Triple-A Fresno last season. Barry Zito contract aside, are the Giants once again killing their future?

* The Rays swept a doubleheader with the Orioles on Tuesday. Evan Longoria started both games and finished the day 3-for-9. Winning both contests put the Rays three ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. It appears Boston will settle with the Wild Card and Tampa Bay will take the division for the first time in their franchise's history. It's an incredible story, but note that Longoria was the only Rays regular to start both games. They are likely to give Longoria, and some of the other guys, extra days off down this last bit of the September calendar. You've got to monitor those lineups.

* The Brewers will try to squeeze two more starts out of free agent-to-be CC Sabathia. He's expected to go on three days' rest Wednesday night and again in the final game of the regular season, Sunday. They're trying to win ballgames, and that's understandable, but what happens when they make the postseason? They're going to rely on one guy to win them games? They are skipping Jeff Suppan tonight, who's known for his heroic postseason starts with the St. Louis Cardinals. It's strange that they wouldn't want to have him in the mix right now. Good luck, Milwaukee. Hey, Yovani Gallardo is back!

* Chris Carpenter will undergo surgery on a compressed nerve in his throwing shoulder within the next few days. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Some beat writers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Mikalsz, have already written off the idea of getting any significant numbers from Carpenter in 2009. Mikalsz is very close to the team, but the Cardinals organization insists that their ace's shoulder problem is minor. That's how the world works in St. Louis. The medical staff gives general assumptions about their players and an overly loyal fanbase asks no questions.

AL Quick Hits: The White Sox are not yet able to pin a timetable on Carlos Quentin . Carlos Silva is likely out for the season . Maicer Izturis could retrun if the Angels reach the World Series . Alberto Callapso is day-to-day with a sore left quadriceps . Ken Griffey Jr. has passed Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the all-time home run list . Fausto Carmona is appealing his suspension and will make his scheduled start Wednesday . Jeremy Guthrie will throw a simulated game Wednesday . Andy Marte could miss the rest of the season with a left calf strain . Miguel Cabrera returned as the DH after leaving Monday with lower back tightness . Derek Jeter returned as a defensive replacement Tuesday . J.D. Drew is uncertain to return after receiving another epidural injection in his back . Mike Lowell could be ready as soon as Thursday . Troy Percival is scheduled to have an epidural Tuesday.

NL Quick Hits:Aaron Cook has agreed to shut it down for the rest of the season . Brandon Moss is hoping to avoid knee surgery with a second opinion . Carlos Lee won't return this season . Ben Sheets won't pitch before Saturday . Hong-Chih Kuo might not be able to pitch in the postseason . Rafael Furcal is ready to rejoin the Dodgers . Cristian Guzman is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms . Yovani Gallardo has been activated from the 15-day disabled list . Yunel Escobar is still dealing with a strained hamstring . Yadier Molina is still expected to play this season.

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