Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Game 4 – ALCS

Rays 13, Red Sox 4
Red Sox trail 3-1

This game…there was something familiar about it. Something foul and dank, redolent of autumns past, hopes seemingly crushed, hearts once again broken. It smelled for all the world like Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, with the Rays reprising the Yankees’ role, dominant, arrogant (deservedly), and victorious.

Though my memory is admittedly imperfect, I recall things working out fairly well four years ago. And more recently, the Sox spotted the Indians a 3-1 ALCS lead in 2007 before clawing back to win the pennant.

But this is 2008, and in 2008, there’s no Kevin Millar stage-whispering “Don’t let us win one” to any willing listener, no Cowboy Up, no Idiots, no bloody sock. These Sox, while good and entirely capable, are also a banged up, slumping patchwork. Mike Lowell’s gone for the year, David Ortiz is a shell of himself, Jacoby Ellsbury can’t buy a hit any more than he can buy alcohol without ID, Josh Beckett’s duende is on siesta, poor Tim Wakefield’s knuckler doesn’t. All that’s left, then, is hope. Small consolation, perhaps, after three dismal performances, but 2004 and 2007 proved in spades the redemptive value of that ephemeral commodity.

As for the action on the field last night, the description begins and ends with the Rays – the Red Sox were nothing so much as the Washington Generals. Tampa is talented, deep, and extraordinarily athletic. Watching B.J. Upton play baseball is a study in grace and power – he moves like a leopard, languid and ferocious in equal measure. Carl Crawford is slightly less silky, but blazingly fast, muscular, and versatile. Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura are dazzling around the bag at second. Evan Longoria has a perfect swing. Carlos Pena covers every inch of the plate and crushes everything that’s close to his sweet spot. The bit players contribute a full share – witness Willy Aybar’s 5 RBI performance last night. The Rays pitchers have been aggressive and confident throughout, Scott Kazmir’s Game 2 stumble notable in its solitary nature.

So yeah, the Rays have proven beyond a measure of doubt that they belong on this stage. Outside of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Justin Masterson, and Jonathan Papelbon, these Sox haven’t.

One more chance. Lotta ball left.


killthedh said...

The Phillies just won a pennant.

In team rankings by most recent WS appearance, that vaults them from somewhere in the middle of the pack to the top.

As best I can reckon, three of the four teams that are the subjects of this blog are now ranked 1, 2 (tie) and 8. So you must be doing something right.

Hang in there, Whitney.

TJ said...

Not a bad first season so far for Nick at MLC...

rob said...

nick appears to be sleeping it off.

Nick said...

I'm here. Formulating ideas for my post.

killthedh said...

Pitch Count Rigidity Helps Rays Make History

Maddon apparently doesn't get it. McKeon did.