Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Wake at Fenway

Carnage. Noun. 1. The slaughter of a great number of people, as in battle; butchery; massacre.

I'd say that about sums it up, don'tcha think? Of course, baseball is not war and there were no dead bodies strewn across the Fenway lawn last night.

But you can equate 'great number of people' with Red Sox Nation, which this morning has to be coming around to the reality - despite the incredible comebacking ways of our Sox in recent years - that this particular team is just too wounded to carry on. In some ways, this team is like a champion thoroughbred who's still very talented but has been surpassed by other younger, feistier horses.

Make no mistake, folks: the Rays are very, very good, and they're playing great baseball when it matters the most. In addition to the artillery shells (sticking with the military theme) they've been sending into the Green Monster seats the last two nights, they've been pitching very well, playing their typical good defense, their grounders are finding their way through the infield and their pop-ups are landing. Last night, they humiliated Tim Wakefield and the Sox on national TV, bashing their way to a 13-4 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. A buddy and I exchanged text messages right after Wake was pulled, both wondering if we had just seen the last of him in a Sox uniform. Another topic for another day, but worth a debate.

The Rays have clearly been the superior team in every aspect of the game, but I'd like our chances a whole lot better with a healthy Mike Lowell playing third and batting fifth or sixth, and if we knew Josh Beckett and David Ortiz would be their normal selves. You can't underestimate the loss of Lowell, not only for his glove and his bat, but also for what his absence does to the lineup. It moves Youkilis to third and makes Tito have to insert Mark Kotsay at first. Kotsay has done a fine job defensively, but has been a little soft with the bat. And while they continue to deny it, both Beckett and Ortiz have to be hurting. I tip my hat to the Rays (except Jonny Gomes) - and will root for them heartily if they advance - but I still would have liked to have seen our best vs. their best.

Things are gloomy here - this feels a lot different than '04 or '07; the Rays seem destined - but nobody knows better than us that cold bats can get hot in a hurry, and hot bats can cool down. Anything can happen. For now, we lick our collective wounds as a Nation and turn our eyes to tomorrow - when the guy who gave us our best pitching performance in this series (Dice-K) can hopefully come up aces again. The Rays, interestingly, will move James Shields back and go with Scott Kazmir for Game 5, a guy we know we can handle. If we can get this one, and then if Beckett can revert to his dominant self for Game 6, and then, hey, we've got Lester going again... and... stop. Just stop. Don't do it. This is over.

Ah well. Cheer up - the Celtics start playing for real in 13 days.

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