Monday, July 07, 2008

Holy Fire

Games 88 through 91 – Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Yankees 0
Red Sox 6, Yankees 4
Yankees 2, Red Sox 1
Yankees 5, Red Sox 4
Record: 52-39

The movable object combined with the stoppable force this weekend to present Exhibits A and B in the People’s Case Against the Boston Red Sox 2008 Postseason Chances.

Last night, the soft, ticklish underbelly of the Boston pitching staff required a mere 2 batters to completely unwind (yet another) very solid effort by Tim Wakefield, as Javier Lopez allowed a single to Jorge Posada and a roped triple to Robinson Cano to turn a 4-2 game into a deadlocked affair. Then, after the Sox failed to scratch in the 9th and 10th innings, the bullpen’s rank contagion reached Jonathan Papelbon, who allowed a 2-out, 2-strike game-winning single to the immortal Brett Gardner. The Boston Pops 4th of July fireworks display has nothing on the Sox bullpen for sheer incendiary power.

Saturday afternoon’s defeat was perhaps even more galling, while every bit as revealing of the Sox’ weaknesses. After failing to dent the Yankee pitching staff through 8 innings, the Sox whipsawed the great Mariano Rivera to the tune of 2 hits, a walk, and a hit batsman to open the bottom of the 9th. When the dust settled, Boston had the bases loaded, nobody out, and the tying run a mere 90 feet from home. And the bottom of the order lined up to face Rivera.

K, popup, K – a near palindrome, a bad breakfast menu, and the so, so predictable result of Coco Crisp, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo batting with the game on the line. Varitek’s 15 for his last 114 (!), a slump so bad that even a nighttime romp with Divine may not be enough to escape it. Lugo’s .153 average with runners in scoring position is the single worst such mark in the American League. Coco, well, he just picked a bad time to be lumped in with the other two – and his ineffectual wave at Rivera’s final pitch was nothing so much as a white flag.

And now these abide: faith, love and hope. And of these three…wait, wrong book. These actually abide: the bullpen and the bottom of the batting order, and of these two – cripes, of these two are seasons wrecked.

Say what you will about the Sox, they’re at least an entertainingly inept bunch at the moment. (Inept is perhaps too strong a word, but measured, sane discourse isn’t our strong suit.) Last night’s loss marks the Sox’ 14th consecutive loss in 1-run road contests. In their recent 3-7 skid, they’ve dropped 6 games by a single run. The clinical sabremetricians in the audience will tell us that 1-run games are effectively a function of luck, and that such things generally return to the mean over time. The aggrieved Chicken Littles in our midst beg to differ, pointing to the 6-headed firestarter in the bullpen as the chief culprit.

Meanwhile, Tampa is 5 games out in front, and despite the fact that we have a lotta ball leftTM, without a functional bullpen and at least a mediocre 7-9 in the batting order, those 5 games might as well be 15. In Theo We Trust, then, ‘cause the other options don’t seem all that appealing.


Unknown said...

Not only are the Sox limping into the All-Star break, but is there anyone in baseball who needs the three days off more than Varitek? I believe the players voted him in to f with the Sox and not give him the breather he so desperately needs.

rob said...

if he were smart, he'd claim injury and take the break off. stupid hardheaded bastard has too much 'integrity', though.