In the end, the better team won.
It’s hard to be mad when that happens. The Red Sox fought back, made a series of it, and proved they would not go meekly into winter. What more can you ask for? All night, it felt like the Sox were robbing a better team if they managed to pull out another win. I would have taken it, but it makes the loss much easier to accept.
The Sox gave us a terrific ride. It started with the seemingly near-certainty of a trade for Johan Santana, and once the season began, it included a trip to Japan, Jon Lester’s no-hitter, J.D. Drew’s amazing June, the surreal and turbulent July 31 trade deadline, the 19-17 affair at Fenway and the emergence of Dustin Pedroia as a legitimate offensive force. Of course, it ended well, with the greatest single-game postseason comeback ever (one fewer run than 1929, sure, but come on, that was the Cubs, and it wasn’t an elimination game).
In the end, they didn’t have enough. In a season that comes down to two runs in a final seventh game, it’s hard not to look at what might have been if Curt Schilling’s shoulder had held together just one more year, if Mike Lowell hadn’t gone down, if David Ortiz could have overcome the physical — and possibly mental — hurdles placed in his path. None of those things happened, and the Sox will be heading home after their first ALCS elimination loss since 2003 — after nine straight win-or-go-home victories in the league championship series.
The focus necessarily turns forward. The Red Sox have some clear issues that need to be resolved. First and foremost is that of catcher. Jason Varitek likely has some value as a part-time player/coach, but he cannot be a starter any longer. Whether that would force him to seek more money or a better job elsewhere is up to Varitek and agent Scott Boras. Their second issue would be a fifth starter. The Lester-Beckett-Matsuzaka-Wakefield four seem set. The question is whether the Sox will seek answers from within (Michael Bowden) or free agency (Sabathia? Burnett? Sheets?). These are questions we have several months to discuss. It’s the beauty of YFSF; for us, the season is never over.
For now, the moment belongs to the Rays. Congrats to them. And go Phillies!