Not much new ground was broken in tonight’s poor effort, but I am going to trod on that old path anyways. Despite the optimism felt in RSN over the weekend (can’t say that I was as giddy about one laugher and two ugly wins over a crappy Orioles squad as everyone else), the game tonight distilled some of the traits that are not good enough about a quite good Red Sox squad, traits which do not give me high hopes for a post-season run, if the team makes the post-season at all.
- Josh Beckett puts the Sox in a five run hole, three behind before they even come to the plate. Beckett is a latter-day Nuke Laloosh, a million dollar arm and a ten-cent head. Nothing but gas after gas, with hints of an absolutely mean curveball that he has either no confidence in, no ability to locate, or too much stubbornness to throw in a tight situation. He’d rather try to blow guys away than finesse his way through a lineup. Something has to change in the off-season.
- Terry Francona employs the greedy, slow hook that has gotten him into much trouble with me this season, leaving Rudy Seanez in the game about two batters too long in the eighth inning after he had done yeoman’s work with a scoreless 7th. Instead of leaving with the Sox two runs behind, it ends up a being a four run deficit. Once again, the weak bullpen forces the offense to work harder, to climb steep hills under difficult circumstances.
- Bad decisions under pressure: DeMarlo Hale, who has done a really wonderful job as the third base coach this year (and who doesn’t deserve the crap that will be thrown his way over at SoSH, I am guessing), inexplicably sent Manny Ramirez on a single in the bottom of the eighth with one out, after the Sox had cut the lead to three and put up 4 straight hits against the ferociously impressive Joel Zumaya. Instead of the bases loaded and 1 out, a pitcher starting to ravel, the rally was squashed, a pitcher re-energized.
I commented earlier that a four game loss-column deficit with only 40+ games to play is a significant one, and we can see the reason why tonight. The Yankees slump, the Sox cut the lead to two, and tonight 50% of the gains made over a four game span are handed right back. It could very well be that all the Yankees have to do next weekend is win two games, for their visit to be considered useful. And that’s a terrible position for the Sox to be in. That pendulum that Paul referred to isn’t swinging back the other way for me — it didn’t really ever reverse course, despite the sweep of the Orioles. The Sox are good. Just not good enough.