Another October, another ALCS, another epic game seven on tap. Once agan the Boston Red Sox have done the near impossible. In front of the largest crowd to ever see a game at the Trop, the Red Sox quieted the Rays, and thier band-wagon fan base.
In one of the grittest performances I have seen since Curt Schilling’s ALCS game six miracle outing, Josh Beckett gutted through five innings against a team that had just pounded him a week earlier. Beckett was clearly not his old self, his fastballs topping out at a pedestrian 92mph or so. However on this night, Beckett found his spots and location, unlike he did in game two of the ALCS. Beckett did all you could ask for, he took the ball, and gave the Boston Red Sox a chance to win the game. Beckett’s line for last night was five innings pitched, four hits, two runs, one walk and three strikeouts. Two of the hits were longballs,which has plagued Beckett this postseason. Beckett most likely would have gone another inning, however there was a LONG delay, as the umpires took 15 minutes to determine how to configure themselves after home plate umpire Daryl Cousins left with a shoulder injury.
Now I have a dumb question I guess, why does the media and the Rays call James Shields, “Big Game James” ? I understand he is the # 2 starter for the Rays, and he has had a nice season, however how many “BIG” games have the Rays really ever played. In know in this ALCS, Big Game James has the had the luxury of pitching two games at home, and both times, he was bested by the visting pitcher. From the start last night Shields looked like a guy alot smaller than the moment. Shields faced 28 batters in his 5.2 innings, and 12 of them reached, or 43 %. Not exactly what I would call “big game stuff”. Shields stayed in trouble most of his time on the mound, and usually was lucky enough to find the bottom of the Red Sox line-up when he got into trouble. I would just like to say congrats to “Big Game James” on his 0-2 record in the ALCS, the Sox couldn’t have done it without him.
To make sure the Red Sox kept thier date with Rays in the ALCS, the Sox hitters stepped up thier game. Big Papi and JD Drew continue to hit out of thier slumps, as both recorded multi-hit nights. Of course Kevin Youkilis continues to be all world as he drove in two of the Red Sox four runs. As has been the case for this series, the bottom of the line-up was dreadful. Mark Kotsay, Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek combined to go 2-12. However, one of those hits was a solo homerun by Jason Varitek, his first hit of the ALCS.
The Sox bullpen was absolutely stifling last night, as they put together a string of zero’s that started in the 6th, and ended with Willy Aybar’s soft liner to Kevin Youkilis. Hideki Okajima was vintage 2007 as he pitched two innings, and allowed only one Ray to reach base. Justin Masterson flirted a little with trouble as he hit Jason Bartlett to lead off the 8th. However a strikeout and a double play ball later, and the Sox and Masterson were through the 8th. Jonathan Papelbon did not have his normal heat, however what he had was enough. Papelbon sat down the Rays in order in the 9th, and only needed 7 pitches to do so. Papelbon’s velocity was down last night, no doubt a side effect from the 40 pitches he had thrown the day before.
The Sox now head to thier fourth game seven in five years. In the words of Kevin Millar, “anything can happen”. By pushing this series to the brink, the Sox have shifted all the pressure back onto the Rays. Jon Lester will square off against the Rays and that ******-bag Matt Garza tonight, in what we hope will another ticket punched to the fall classic. Whatever the outcome, it has been a heroic effort by a team that was up against it. The Sox have had to overcome adversity all year, they have had to suffer through the loss of thier 2nd ace Curt Schilling, they have had to play this ALCS without last year’s World Series MVP Mike Lowell, and they have watched as Josh Beckett has had to navigate through his starts with velocity that would rival Jamie Moyer’s. Throughout it all, the Sox have lived up to rule # 76, they have played like champions, and done thier fans proud.
Is it really possible I blogged last year that Terry Francona should replace Dustin Pedoria with Alex Cora…
Well fans of the Tampa Bay Rays now know what REAL baseball fans have known for years. There are no sure things in baseball. The Rays got that harsh dose of reality a little after midnight last night, as the Boston Red Sox completed one of the most improbable comebacks in MLB post-season history.
It seemed for most of this game, that a comeback and a win would be all but impossible. For the fourth game in a row, the Rays jumped all over the Red Sox starting pitcher. Again, a starting pitcher gave up a long ball before the home team Sox had even swung a bat. Simply put, Dice-K did not have it last night, he looked like a guy overcome by the moment. It was one of Dice-K’s oddest starts of the year. Instead of his usual control and walk problems, he just had problems recording outs. The Rays tuned up Dice-k, and battered him with a relentless attack that lasted the entire four innings that he was able to pitch. On the otherside, it seemed Scott Kazmir taking the hill for game five, was much ado about nothing. Kazmir dominated the Sox for six innings, allowing only two hits, and no runs.
The funny part about the game last night, was a curious move made by manager Terry Francona. If I have said once, I have said it a million times, in big games, when the game needs saving right then and there, I have often said that Francona has been very reluctant to use closer Jonathan Papelbon. So there he was, running out of the pen, with no outs and two on in the top of the 7th inning. It was really and odd move for Francona, after all, runners were @ second and third with no outs, in a game they were trailing 5-0. Of course Papelbon could not prevent those runners courtesy of Manny Delcarmen to score, but he provided the Sox a life line for two innings, and kept the game within reach, well not really, it was 7-0. The move to me seemed to invigorate the Sox and the crowd.
So there it was, Journey playing Don’t Stop Believing, in the bottom in the 7th, the crowd going crazy, in a game the Sox were trailing 7-0 with only nine outs left. They say that Yankee Stadium has ghost, and that may be true, however Fenway may have few lurking around as well. The Sox managed to piece together a rally, started by MVP Dustin Pedoria’s rbi, and capped by Big Papi’s three run homer (sorry about the Big Pop Fly comment big guy). As nice as that was, the Sox were still down three runs with only six outs left, against the best bullpen in baseball. A bullpen by that way that had not blown a lead of three runs or more all season. None of that mattered when JD Drew crushed a Dan Wheeler fastball and sent that pitch into then night. Drews homer got the Sox to within one run, still a few more miracles would be needed. After Drew’s bomb to right, Mark Kotsay, gets a two out double, no doubt his biggest hit as a Red Sox. Kotsay’s hit enabled Coco Crisp to have the greatest at bat in his big league career. Crisp battled pitch after pitch, fouling off ball after ball, until he finally willed the Dan Wheeler offering into shallow right field. Kotsay running for life and a game six in Tampa, scored easily, to tie the score…7-7.
Once again, the Sox would have to endure a little magic from the bullpen, as Justin Masterson got Carlos Pena to roll into a two on one out inning ending double play. Masterson’s unreal efforts allowed the Sox a chance in the bottom of the 9th.
Now as a Sox fan you had to like the guys coming up in the 9th, Dustin Pedoria and Big Papi and Kevin Youlilis. Both guys had come up huge in the 7th, and if they got on, new Boston legend Jason Bay would be there to end the game and propel the Sox to a game six. It seemed the script had been written for the Sox, but alas the plan did not go as scripted. Both Pedoria and Ortiz failed to reach base, and the Sox needed Youkilis to leg one out, and an assist from Evan Longoria to get that man in scoring position. There he was, Jd Drew, perhaps the last guy you would ever want batting with the game on the line. Drew though acted like a man that had been there a 1000 times before. He stood in, and was very patient at the plate, he looked at some bad pitches, and a few close ones, however he waited until he got his pitch That pitch was a poorly placed 3-1 slider from J.P. Howell, that Drew took and drove to deep right field, just passed the out stretching Gabe Gross.
Once again the Boston Red Sox have outrun the enevtiable. Once again they have looked down the barrel of an elimination game, and once again they were triumph. The Sox have now given these Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a moment of pause, a moment to think maybe they aren’t destiny’s child after all. All of that remains to be seen, it will be worked out in a game six. But thanks to Jd Drew and company, the Boston Red Sox live to play another day.
In the words of Getty Lee, the Boston Red Sox have a “ghost of a chance” tonight versus the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have given the Sox a chance tonight by starting a pitcher that they have knocked around recently. However, those games have no bearing on tonights game, nor does Dice-K’s results in game one.
For the Sox to win tonight they are going to have to flip the script, and start putting pressure on the Ray’s pitchers and hitters. So far the Sox have failed miserable to do that, and the end result has been pretty unbearable to watch. To be sure, the Sox can’t win all three games tonight, so no pressure, they just need to win one. Just like last season, the Sox will need Dice-K to come up huge in a post-season game.
Most Sox fans agree that this Sox team bears no resemblence to the Sox teams in the past that have overcome post-season deficits. The only thing they have in common with those teams is the uniforms, and thats about it. Gone is Curt Schilling, and his un-ending supply of bravado and guts. It has been replaced by Josh(middle of the plate fastball) Beckett, who is not quite the warrior he has been advertised. Gone is Manny Rameriz and Mike Lowell, both who played roles in the Sox coming back against the Indians last season. They have been replaced by Big Pop Fly and JD (I’m a gutless piece of crap) Drew. Even last season post-season darling Jacoby Ellsbury has failed in his second act in the playoffs. Last years Manny Delcarmen, well thats still the same, both version stink, equally.
With all the negative and doubt that surround the Boston Red Sox, there is some lingering doubt on whether they can be done in by the Rays. If..and I mean big IF, they can win tonight, they will have the supposed big game pitcher Josh Beckett lined up for game six. If we are to believe the Sox and Josh Beckett, and there is truly nothing wrong with Beckett, then there is no reason to think that game would not be a coin-flip. Okay, and if..big IF, the Sox can win game six, they will have thier real ace Jon Lester lined up to pitch against Matt(the spitter)Garza in game seven, and there is no reason to think Lester will tank twice in a row. Make no doubt about it, the Sox can come back against the Rays. The Rays have not been pressured at all in this series, really since the entrance of Mike Timlin in game two. There is no pressure on the Sox at this point, every talking head, including those covering them for thier hometown paper has picked them to fold thier tents and go home for the winter. Funny thing though about pressure…just ask the Indians and Yankees about that….
Well no doubt about it now, the Boston Red Sox are in harms way. For the third game in a row, a Boston starter put the Sox in a huge whole, against a team whose greatest strength is pitching. Again for the third time in an ALCS, the Boston Red Sox will need nothing short of a miracle if they are to advance to the Fall Classic.
The bad thing about last night’s game was that it went the way most Red Sox fans thought it would. Tim Wakefield’s last outing against the Rays was also an important game, and he tanked in that one as well. Just like he did on September 17th, Wakefield was unable to get of the third inning. By the time Wake was done in the second last night, he had already surrendered 3 homeruns and five earned runs. Needless to say, it was a lackluster performance from Wakefield, especially if that was his Fenway swan song. If your scoring at home, the Red Sox starters have surrendered 18 runs in thier last 13 innings.
If Tim Wakefield’s crappy outing wasn’t enough, it was followed by another epic gag job by our ole buddy Manny Delcarmen. There are some that say little Manny has turned a corner this year. Let me be clear, I am not one of them, I still think he is a gutless, worthless piece of crap, that comes unprepared to pitch way to often. Last night Delcarmen’s pitching was like gas on an open flame. His line last night, six batters faced, recorded one out, and allowed five earned runs to score. Delcarmen’s pathetic display ensured the final outcome last night. It’s good to see as this season winds down, Manny Delcarmen is finishing the same way he started this season.
The other elephant in this room is the display or lack there of by the Boston offense. It’s not like they have seen these guys before, hell this is the third time in a month they have seen last nights starter. Too many guys in the Boston line-up have rolled over and died. JD Drew was moved to the top of the line-up last night, in part to spark the offense and get on base. So what does Drew do from the lead-off spot, he goes 0-5, with no bases what-so-ever. Luckily for Drew, he has had plenty of company. Big Papi recorded his first hit last night, for the series, I guess that about says it all.
Now for the good news…….long pause…is there any, oh yea the one pitcher that managed to keep a lid on the Rays is pitching for the Sox on thursday. The task has become really simple for the Boston Red Sox, win a ball game, a game that will played at home, with a pitcher whose record is 19-3 for the season. If the Sox can do that, maybe..just maybe they can put a little pressure on these Rays, something they have failed mightly to do these last few games.