Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reaching New Depths

Sometimes when you're pissed off and angry, it's better to wait and calm down a bit before saying something you'll regret later. This ain't one of those times.

The Red Sox were broomed away by the surging Rays last night in ugly fashion, as Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen completely reversed a rare 4-1 lead in a matter of minutes. Allow me to set the stage.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was his maddening self again last night, nibbling instead of pounding (what a contrast to the Rays' pitchers in this series), but he ultimately pitched well. The problem is he only went 5 innings and we had to go to the bullpen. Hideki Okajima pitched a problem-free sixth inning, but it was the seventh when it unraveled. Delcarmen came in first and threw grenades, and Hansen followed and wasn't much better. In a span of 30 pitches, the combined line for the two: 0 outs, 4 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks. Lead gone.

Now to be fair, Dice-K needs to give us more than five. There's no question about that. But he has been pitching better lately, and logic dictates that he should continue to get better as his recent DL stay fades further in the rear view mirror. The Sox mounted a comeback in the 9th, but Francona curiously called a hit and run with one of his slowest runners on first (Lowell) and his worst batter (Varitek) at the plate. Swing and a miss, Lowell out by a mile.

The Sox are now 3.5 games behind the Rays as they enter Yankee Stadium tonight, and the pressure is on Jon Lester to come through with a clutch performance. As for the bullpen? Theo needs to do something, and he may have to make a move before the trading deadline with some internal pieces. I'm thinking Justin Masterson goes to the pen, and Clay Buchholz comes up from Pawtucket to face the Yankees on Sunday. Beyond that, maybe we see more of Chris Smith, who's pitched well but hasn't seen much time on the bump lately.

In the midst of my pissed-off-edness last night, I think I heard the guys on NESN say that the Sox haven't been 3.5 games out of first-place since late 2006. They're clearly hurting without David Ortiz in the lineup, Manny is scuffling, Youkilis is hitting the ball hard but right at everybody, and Varitek is doing his best imitation of Dave Kingman. He's 3 for his last 48, and man is he starting to look like an old catcher.

I know we've been extremely fortunate around here when it comes to sports success. I haven't felt the way I did last night at around 11 p.m. in a long, long time. But when the Tampa Bay Rays are walking all over you, the defending world champs, something's not right. I like and respect the Rays, but 1 through 25, the Red Sox are the better club. Time to start showing it.

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