Thursday, August 05, 2004

Games 105 & 106 - Red Sox
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 2
Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Record: 58-48
August Record: 2-2

Good thing I turned over a new leaf on this team, or yesterday's gutpunch of a loss might have had me well out on a ledge. It's one thing to lose a game when the other team outplays you, or because of dumb luck. It's another thing altogether ("It's another thing.") to lose because your coaching staff shits the bed.

Two major game management faux pas cost the Sox last night, and kept them from entering today's off-day with a great deal of confidence and momentum. Bronson Arroyo had been dealing for 6 innings, allowing just 1 earned run on 3 hits and 88 pitches. The Sox held a 4-1 advantage when the first two D-Ray hitters in the bottom of the 7th reached base (on a single and a walk). Thanks for your service, Mr. Arroyo, the bullpen will pick you up now. Right? Um, not so much.

Julio Lugo reached on Kevin Youkilis' error to load the bases with nobody out, bringing up the left-handed Toby Hall. Okay, Bronson, tough break - Embree's gonna get you out of this mess. Thanks for a gutty performance. Right? You'd think, but, again, no.

After Hall hit the predictable grand slam to give the Rays a 5-4 lead - and make Arroyo's numbers look a lot worse than his performance might dictate, again - the Sox had a chance in the top of the 9th to scratch back into the game. With fleet Dave Roberts on second and nobody out, Doug Mientk...whatever singled to center. As strong-armed D-Ray centerfielder Rocco Baldelli scooped the ball - his momentum driving him towards the plate - Roberts was two steps shy of third base. Sox third base coach Dale Sveum brought back terrifying memories of "Wave 'em in" Wendall Kim, windmilling his arms as Roberts sped for home.

Baldelli's accurate throw beat Roberts by 10 feet and Hall's proficient block of the plate stopped the Sox outfielder well short of his planned destination and gave the D-Rays a much-needed out. So, in summary, Sweum sent his guy home against long odds with nobody out in a one-run game. Brilliant. And, of course, the 2004 Anti-Rally Sox folded like a cheap suit and failed to plate Mient...Chocolate Chip from 2nd with 1 out.

Bravo, Terry, and Huzzah, Dale - if we can't lose on our own merit, let's find ways to gold-plate victories for our mediocre opponents. I particularly enjoyed Francona's post-game comments, when he noted that Arroyo had "earned the right to get out of the inning." Really, player-friendly monkey-boy? I believe I've earned the right to play naked Twister with Jennifer Love Hewitt, but her management - not to mention my wife - will certainly frown upon it. By virtue of your job title, you've earned the goddamn obligation to make hard decisions that increase your team's chances of winning, not the right to get a pass because you're a nice guy. To paraphase Alec Baldwin's character from Glengarry Glen Ross, I don't give a fuck if you're a nice guy. If you want to stay here, CLOSE, dammit!

(Edited to correct the misspelling of Sveum's name. I had it with a 'w' before. Silly me, should have known that this guy wouldn't have a 'w' anywhere near his name.)

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