Red Sox gear up for the ALCS

For the first time since 2008, the Red Sox are playing in the ALCS. And for the first time since 2007 — and just the second time since 1986 — the ALCS opens at Fenway, with the Red Sox holding homefield advantage.

The first game is on Saturday. The time has not been announced. We won’t know the opponent until the conclusion of Thursday’s A’s-Tigers game in Oakland.

Which opponent are Red Sox fans rooting for? Both teams provide unique challenges.

The Red Sox went 3-3 against the A’s this season, but haven’t seen them since the All-Star break. There would be a lot of familiar faces at Fenway come Saturday if Oakland is the opponent.

Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss and Bartolo Colon all spent time with the Sox.

The Tigers have star power, with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and even a start manager in Jim Leyland. Oh, and there would also be the reunion with Jose Iglesias, a fan favorite earlier this season for the Red Sox.

Game 2 of the ALDS

Coming off a day in which just about everything went right for the Red Sox, they will be back at it in a little bit here for Game 2.

The main lineup difference is that David Ross is catching instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Ross is 2-for-5 lifetime against Price with two homers. Saltalamacchia is 1-for-14.

Interestingly, Stephen Drew stayed in the lineup despite an 0-for-10 mark lifetime against Price while exciting prospect Xander Bogaerts stayed on the bench.

Jon Lester really preserved the bullpen in Game 1. Only Junichi Tazawa and Ryan Dempster were used. All hands our on deck for tonight.

The crowd was a significant factor for the Red Sox in the first game. I’m not sure I’ve heard a Fenway crowd that revved up since Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS. And it actually felt a lot like 2003 and 2004.

Game 1 of the Division Series

Under cloudy skies, everyone at Fenway Park is getting ready for Game 1 of the Division Series against Matt Moore and the Rays.

Here is manager John Farrell’s lineup:

Ellsbury; Victorino; Pedroia; Ortiz; Napoli; Gomes; Salty; Drew; Middlebrooks … with Jon Lester starting.

No earth-shattering news in the pre-game hours. Felix Doubront made the final spot on the pitching staff over Matt Thornton.

Rays manager Joe Maddon had a great line, talking about how John Lackey helped pay for his daughter’s wedding in 2002. Lackey won Game 2 of the World Series that year for the Angels, the team Maddon was serving as bench coach for. Obviously Maddon’s postseason share increased greatly with the Angels winning the World Series,

Pedroia back up top

Without Jacoby Ellsbury for a while, the Red Sox might be doing some improvising in the lineup.

There is a clear example of that tonight as Dustin Pedroia bats leadoff for the first time since 2009. In ’09, Pedroia was a .219 hitter in 25 games.

More on the lineup decision in a bit when we speak with manager John Farrell.

Bogaerts checks into new home

Xander Bogaerts had an arrival for the second week in a row. Last time, he showed up as a Major Leaguer when the Red Sox opened a six-game road trip through San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This time, he was able to put on his home whites for the first time.

The one thing you’ll notice about the highly-touted prospect is that he just about always has a smile on his face.

“I guess it’s something natural for me,” Bogaerts said.

And even if Bogaerts isn’t playing every day — he was not in Tuesday’s lineup — what’s not to love about being in the Majors in the middle of a pennant race?”Definitely a lot of difference compared to minors,” Bogaerts said. “I’m really enjoying every moment of it. Thankfully we won a few games so that maybe enough there. I’m just thankful to be here.”

Bogaerts had been to Fenway before Tuesday, but under different circumstances.  “This is actually the third time I came here, but the first time I’ve been on the field for BP and stuff. The grass and dirt is pretty nice. Hopefully I get accustomed to the BP and stuff and have better BPs in a couple of days.”

What is it like taking BP with the inviting Monster just 310 feet away?  “I didn’t try to think about it too much. I just tried to go right field normally, is what I like to do. Just try to be me and not try and press at all.”

Bogaerts smiled when asked the difference between playing at Fenway and his homeland of Aruba. “A lot of rocks in aruba and no rocks here. just clean and smooth. A big difference, especially with all the fans, hopefully I get to see all the fans tonight.”

One thing a Boston player always must deal with is a lot of media. Right now, that’s not bothering him. “A lot of reporters, man. that’s all I can say. I was pretty surprised. On the road, it wasn’t that much but you guys have a job to do so I’m here to help you guys.”

A first: Middlebrooks playing second

SAN FRANCISCO — Prior to the bottom of the seventh inning in Wednesday’s game against the Giants, Red Sox manager John Farrell raised two fingers to Will Middlebrooks. Poor Middlebrooks. He had no idea what his manager meant by the signal.

How could he? Middlebrooks had never played second base in his life. Not in LIttle League, not in high school, not in the Minors and certainly not n the Majors.

But with the latest roster shuffle leaving the Red Sox without a backup second baseman, Middlebrooks has now inherited that role. Farrell decided to give him a trial by fire in Wednesday’s game with the Red Sox holding a double-digit lead.

Middlebrooks did not disappoint, turning the middle of a 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the seventh.

On the same day Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer earlier in the game, he had no problem identifying his highlight of the game.

“Probably turning the DP,: Middlebrooks said. “That was a lot of fun. That was out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it, that was a lot of fun.”

Farrell took a leap of faith thinking Middlebrooks could be comfortable at second just by judging how he looked when the Red Sox overshift on left-handed batters. That doesn’t mean Middlebrooks has had much time to work on second base since his return to Boston a couple of weeks ago.

“Not much. I haven’t worked on it. I haven’t turned a play up the middle since I was 18 in Texarkana, Texas, so it’s been awhile.’’

It was a funny moment when Farrell told Middlebrooks he was switching from third to second late in the game.

“I thought I misunderstood him,” Middlebrooks said. “He looked at me and [held up two fingers]. I had just grounded out. He gave me ‘this’ and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I had to run up and get a different glove. I have a smaller one.”

Middlerooks agrees with Farrell’s reasoning that the shift coverage helped him prepare a little for the unfamiliar responsibility.

“Yeah, absolutely, that way I can at least see the angle of the balls and how the ball comes off the bat. It really wasn’t that big of a difference, it wasn’t a big deal,” said Middlebrooks.

So Middlebrooks really never played second before Wednesday?

“No, never, never, never. Shortstop my whole life then I played third my first year in pro ball.,” Middlebrooks said.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia doesn’t require much time off. Middlebrooks will be the insurance option at second until Sept. 1, when rosters are expanded. With the Red Sox having multiple off-days before then, Pedroia probably won’t need to come out of the starting lineup, barring an injury.

And the way Middlebrooks has been swinging the bat, the Red Sox want to keep him right where he is — at the hot corner.

Bogaerts batting seventh in debut

Xander Bogaerts, projected by many to be the next homegrown star for the Boston Red Sox, will make his debut Tuesday night in San Francisco, starting at shortstop and batting seventh.

David Ortiz, who started at first Monday night, will take the night off in preparation for Wednesday’s day game. Mike Carp got the start at first with Mike Napoli apparently still experiencing soreness from his left foot injury. David Ross, coming off his second concussion, will start at catcher, marking his first game action since June 14.

Clay Buchholz took another significant step toward his return when he threw a simulated game earlier today in San Francisco.

Napoli dropped to seventh in lineup

It was just a few days ago that Mike Napoli was dropped from fifth to sixth in manager John Farrell’s lineup. With his slump showing no signs of lifting, Napoli moved down again for Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays — this time to the No. 7 hole for the first time this season.

Napoli has just five hits in 37 at-bats in August, with no homers and three RBIs.

For the season, he has 158 strikeouts in 460 plate appearances.

The news of Napoli’s move down in the batting order was announced by Farrell in his weekly radio segment with WEEI on Wednesday.

Peavy headed to Red Sox

The exhaustive search for a proven starting pitcher wound up a successful mission for the Red Sox as general manager Ben Cherington reeled in right-hander Jake Peavy from the White Sox in a three-team, seven-player deal late Tuesday night.

To pry Peavy away from the White Sox, the Red Sox also had to include the  Tigers. Jose Iglesias, who started at third base for Boston on Tuesday only to be removed in the ninth inning once the deal seemed probable, is headed to Detroit.

The trade was completed with a little time to spare before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.

Trailing the Rays by a half-game in the American League East, Cherington hopes Peavy can aid the final push for Boston’s attempt at its first postseason berth since 2009.

“We’re really excited to bring Jake here,” said Cherington. “He’s obviously a proven Major League starter. He’s had a ton of success in his career. And I think if there’s one thing we wanted to do if we could pull it off is to add a starting pitcher. As we looked at the next two months, we’re in position to compete for a playoff spot and we just felt like adding a starting pitcher was probably the most important thing we could do to protect our chances to do that.”

Red Sox close to acquiring Peavy

The Red Sox are closing in on a deal for starting pitcher Jake Peavy, multiple sources have confirmed to MLB.com.

The deal has not been announced, but it likely will be once the Red Sox finish reviewing Peavy’s medical records. The non-waiver trade deadline is Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to report the Red Sox and White Sox had agreed to a deal. WEEI.com reported that the Tigers are also involved in the trade, and they could be getting Jose Iglesias from Boston.

Peavy would give the Red Sox another proven arm in the rotation at a time Clay Buchholz remains out with a right bursa sac strain.

Buchholz last pitched for the Red Sox on June 8, and he is like three to four weeks from being activated.

The 32-year-old Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 13 starts. He has made two starts since returning from the disabled list. Peavy had been sidelined with broken ribs.

The Red Sox would also control his contractual rights for next season, when he would earn $14.5 million.

In 12 Major League seasons, Peavy is 128-97 with a 3.49 ERA. He won the National League Cy Young Award with the Padres in 2007, going 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA.

Peavy has been with the White Sox since 2009.

The first inkling that a deal could be in the works happened in the top of the ninth inning in Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park, when Boston manager John Farrell inserted Brandon Snyder at third base in place of Iglesias.

“Just to get Snyder on the field,” said Farrell. “I recognize the deadline tomorrow, there’s probably a lot of speculation that’s going on in every city. But that was the move.”

Snyder had just started on Monday, so it’s not like he needed the work.

Iglesias has been playing mainly third base for the Red Sox, but he’s a superb defender at shortstop.

The Tigers could soon see their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta get suspended as part of the Biogenesis case that could impact several teams during the pennant race.

Iglesias got off to a hot start for the Red Sox at the plate this season, but has cooled off of late. He went 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is hitting .330 with one homer and 19 RBIs.

The Sox signed Iglesias out of Cuba in 2009. He has always been highly touted for his glove, and this year has proved his bat also has some life in it.

Xander Bogaerts, the top position player in Boston’s farm system, is a shortstop, perhaps making it easier for the Red Sox to put Iglesias in a trade.

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