Games 108 through 110 – Red Sox
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 2
Devil Rays 8, Red Sox 5
Devil Rays 7, Red Sox 6 (10)
My current mental state regarding the Sox is one of the perverse side effects of the 2004 championship season. Pre-2004, every time a promising Sox team took a header, I rationalized it and highlighted the positive aspects, the potential for a rebound – as if giving voice to the negative would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. 2004 freed me from all that. Now, I’m much more coldly rational in assessing the Sox’ outlook – I can call a spade a spade without the psychic baggage. (Note for the record: that cold rationality only applies during the fallow periods between games, when the mind gets to wandering towards the philosophical, especially in the midst of the doldrums. During games, when I’m focused on the action, all claims to rationality should be taken for the absurd misstatements that they certainly are.)
The Sox closed up shop in St. Petersburg for the season with a 3-7 record in the gloomy warehouse that passes for the Rays’ ballpark, and they did it on the strength (weakness?) of 2 consecutive bullpen implosions. Saturday’s result was slightly easier to swallow than Sunday’s, as the Sox never led – though they did close to within 1 run in the 8th inning. Craig Hanson gave up 3 in the bottom of the 8th, and despite scoring once in the 9th and loading the bases with 1 out, the Sox fell short.
Yesterday was a true kick in the pants, and effectively the culmination of the compiled fears of the Nation. Jason Johnson gave the Sox 6 strong innings, leaving the game on the right side of a 6-2 count, even as the Sox offense gave away chances to pad that lead (though with a 7-9 of Alex Gonzalez, Alex Cora, and the immortal Corky Miller, 6 runs is an explosion). Manny Delcarmen began the parade of ineffective relievers by giving up 2 7th-inning runs on a 2-out double by Ben Zobrist. Don’t ask – I don’t know who he is, either. In retrospect, the inning’s big hit was B.J. Upton’s single up the middle on an 0-2 fastball that caught way too much of the plate and put runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.
Mike Timlin continued the parade in the 8th, giving up a long homer to the Travis Lee, the worst-hitting first baseman in the American League. The indignity was made nearly complete later in the 8th when Jon Papelbon got too much of the plate with another 0-2 fastball and the legendary Dioner Navarro took him deep to tie the game. Julian Tavarez completed the cycle by giving up a game-ending blast to Greg Norton in the bottom of the 10th. 4 relievers, 3+ innings, 5 runs, 3 homers, game over.
Ben Zobrist. Travis Lee. Dioner Navarro. Greg Norton. Those are the guys that beat the Sox yesterday. Sorry, but I just don’t see that happening to the Yankees or the White Sox or the Twins. Even on a day when the close-your-eyes-and-hope starter exceeded expectations, the rapidly fraying bullpen couldn’t get 9 outs against a AAAA offense.
Not to get too repetitive in this space, but this spade is most certainly a spade – a high octane offense with a pitching staff rendered not ready for prime time by injuries and ineffectiveness at the least opportune juncture. I expect to be highly grumpy for the next 2 months, because while cold and rational means that I can be objective about the Sox’ prospects, there’s no amount of analysis that permits me to stop caring way too much. The remote control hurled couchward at the end of yesterday’s game is People’s Exhibit A on that count.