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By Murray Chass

September 23, 2018

First came the four-man rotation. Then the pitch-count limit of 100 pitches, which seemed to shrink constantly. The latest restriction being placed on pitchers is the most novel of all: start the game with a relief pitcher and bring in the starter after an inning or two.

The Tampa Bay Rays initiated this latest practice in May of this season. It wasn’t designed to preserve pitchers’ arms, as the other limits are, but it serves the same purpose.

The Rays and their young manager, Kevin Cash, deserve credit for their imagination and ingenuity, taking the team with the majors’ fourth smallest payroll ($77 million), to the eighth best won-lost record (86-68). Entering the last week of the season, the Rays had the same record as the American League Central champions Cleveland Indians and half a game better than the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

There may be some irony in the fact that the Rays have done so well with their revolutionary pitching scheme while having the best starting pitcher in the league, if not the majors …

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By Murray Chass

September 16, 2018

Who’s the Evil Empire now?

That question has become relevant in these last weeks of the regular season because the Boston Red Sox are running away from the New York Yankees in the American League East and making the six games remaining between the teams irrelevant. In the last several weeks the rabid rivals simply haven’t played in the same ball park.

As the Red Sox have separated themselves from the Yankees, opening a 10 ½-game lead, largest of the season, the teams haven’t seemed to be close competitors. I suppose that’s what prompted a reader to ask who the Evil Empire is today.

The question alludes to the name attached to the Yankees 15 years ago when they …

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By Murray Chass

September 9, 2018

As the days of the season dwindle down to a precious few, the Yankees are unlikely to catch the Red Sox in their season-long quest for the American League East title even though the teams play each other six more times. The Yankees, on the other hand, are unlikely to squander their position as one of the wild-card teams in the A.L. playoffs.

The Mariners had an outside chance to pave the Yankees’ way out of the playoffs altogether because they had a three-game series with the Yankees this past weekend. But the Yankees won the first two games, preventing a Seattle sweep and lengthening the distance between to 11 games with 21 to play.

Thus, I don’t think it’s premature to say the Yankees have won their bet. The wild card isn’t ideal; it guarantees only …

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