Games 118 & 119 - Red Sox
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 0
Red Sox 2, Devil Rays 1
I haven't had a certified jump-off-the-couch fist pump moment in so long that I almost hurt myself badly last night. When Coco Crisp's 2-out single to right plated Jason Varitek from second with the winning run, I leapt to my feet, clipping the corner of the coffee table with my knee, sprawling onto the carpet in gleeful pain. Fortunately, most of the Sox seemed more coordinated in their celebration.
Until the 9th inning, last night was a carbon copy of so many Sox efforts against Scott Kazmir. As I texted Whit during the game, "Man, do I wish Kazmir was a Met." It's a well-documented MLC truism that mediocre lefthanders cause the Sox difficulties. When Kazmir, Johan Santana or Erik Bedard take the hill, it's all the Sox can do to get into the batter's box without maiming themselves.
Luckily, or perhaps as a result of good organizational theory, the Sox are adept at raising pitch counts even when they're not particularly successful in generating runs. Kazmir only made it through 6 frames last night, and while the Sox didn't feast on the soft underbelly of the Rays' pen, they did break through against Al Reyes. Mike Lowell's game-tying shot over the Monster may still be working its way through Southeastern Massachusetts - a little long overdue payback for Reyes, who started Nomar Garciaparra on his injury rollercoaster when he broke the erstwhile Sox' wrist with a misplaced pitch.
Of equal note was Jon Lester's sterling effort. One night after Good Wake showed up to hold the Rays to 2 hits over 8 innings, Lester allowed only a single run on 2 hits in 7 frames. After consecutive very shaky outings on the road, Lester's return to Fenway Park after nearly a year away quieted the doubters and served notice that he still has major league talent so long as he can command his fastball.
One downer in the midst of all this happiness (the Yankees lost, too, ensuring at least a day's respite from Friend of MLC Teejay O'Boyle's baiting) was the continued saga of Red Sox mental midgetry. As I texted Mr. O'Boyle (I was like a teenager last night, texting up a storm), "The Sox are the league's dumbest team." I've been meaning for some time to decry Julio Lugo and his lead-dense instincts on the basepaths, but Manny took center-stage yesterday by trying to advance to second on a throw and getting cut down by 10 feet to end an inning and a rally. It was at least the second time in a week that his ill-considered "hustle" cost the Sox an opportunity to change a game. In a victory, it gets limited play. If they'd lost by one, I'd be leading with it.
Game 120's in progress right now, as the Sox look to sweep the Rays behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, so I may be back with some live action. With Andy Sonnenstine on the hill for the Rays, the matchup favors the good guys, but the current 1-0 deficit bespeaks baseball's unique ability to confound well-meaning prediction.