Losing Well

Terry Francona dubbed last night’s 11-inning loss (which has me a bit groggy this morning, having watched the final three innings) "heartbreaking." With all due respect to Terry, I disagree. This might be the most uplifting loss I’ve ever seen.

The Red Sox should have lost this game. Not just because of the circumstances heading into it (those in a minute), but because of the game itself. I count no less than five different points at which any team would be forgiven for losing this game, and the Red Sox did not.

  1. Before it even started. A long night game Sunday, made even later by ESPN’s ridiculous insistence on starting its televised games at 8 p.m. Eastern time, then a cross-country flight that put the team in Oakland at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time, then sleep and a game at 7 p.m. No one woul;d have complained if the Sox threw this game away. The opening game of a road trip in early June with a big lead in the division? No need to kill yourselves on this one, boys. Just come back and win the rest.
  2. By the third inning. Dan Haren v. Julian Tavarez. Are you kidding me? Haren has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Tavarez has arguably … not been the best pitcher in baseball (though far better than expected, I think). This game could have been 6-0 by the third, based on the matchup alone. Instead, Tavarez kept the Sox in it, trailing 3-1 in the sixth.
  3. Entering the ninth inning. A tired team trailing by two runs entering the inning? Pack it up, go home, get em next time. Granted, such a deficit is not unsurmountable — even less so against Alan Embree than against the Athletics’ DLed closer Huston Street.
  4. The bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded, none out, wild man J.C. Romero on the mound. The clock turned midnight here — allowing me to circumvent the satellite three-hour NESN blackout — just as Romero struck out Eric Chavez. I still expected him to walk the winning run in, especially as the count on Bobby Crosby went to 2-0. The 5-2-3 double play was one of the more exciting moments of the season. I don’t believe the 2006 Red Sox would have made that play.
  5. The bottom of the 10th. The winning run again 90 feet away, and again the Sox hold the A’s at bay, this time on a gutsy play by Kevin Youkilis and Kyle Snyder, who executed to perfection the exact same play that Kevin Millar and Chris Ray failed to execute during what NESN now calls the "Mother’s Day Miracle." A slow rolling grounder, a quick field-and-throw from Youkilis, leading Snyder to the bag just ahead of the runner, who then steps on Snyder’s foot and sends them both tumbling. That ball is late to the bag or wide — or the pitcher loses the ball in the collision — more often than not.

The plays in the ninth and 10th especially have made me a believer in this team. Sure, they lost. Snyder — who’s having a great season, by the way, and pitched very well last night — gave up the walk-off on a mistake pitch, and that was it. But there was no reason for the Red Sox, run down and exhausted, to play this well or put up this much of a fight.

Growing up a Sox fan, you learn to hope but never believe. Not until the magic number is zero. Not until the celebration on the field. Not until the champagne flows in the clubhouse. 2004 changed some of that, sure. But the Sox couldn’t hold it in 2005, and they collapsed in 2006, reinforcing those old feelings. Always hope. Never believe.

This year, though, is different. I believe. Last night’s loss sealed it for me.

35 comments… add one
  • I’m with Paul on this, it’s weird when a loss sort of makes you feel ok.
    Anyone see Matt Damon on Letterman last night?
    Some funny stuff, set up, Damon walks out wearing an Ortiz jersey…
    Letterman: Hahaha. Wow.
    Damon: How’s your summer goin’?
    DL: Heh heh heh, pretty good…You’re gonna have company when you leave tonight.
    DL: Now the Yankees defeated the Red Sox Sunday…
    MD: They did, they did…
    DL: …Alex Rodriguez…
    MD: Absolutely, yeah. Ten more of those and you’ll be in second place.

    LocklandSF June 5, 2007, 11:14 am
  • YouTube clip of Matt Damon on Letterman:

    LocklandSF June 5, 2007, 11:16 am
  • i still dont understand how MLB can schedule away games for both the yankees and the Sox after a weekend series between them culminating in sunday night game. Both teams looked flat for most of the game. Granted the Sox flew further but would have killed MLB to schedule one of the many off days over the course of a season after a sunday night game?

    sam YF June 5, 2007, 11:19 am
  • That Matt Damon is a pisser!

    John - YF (Trisk) June 5, 2007, 11:45 am
  • I agree, Sam. Methinks it’s MLB’s way of giving other teams a distinct advantage over either of the two powers for at least one game.
    Or I’m a conspiracy theorist who likes to imagine that everyone is out to get under my skin. Like manholes in the middle of the road instead of off to the side where I don’t have to run over every single one of them. It’s a conspiracy!

    Regular_Brad. June 5, 2007, 11:47 am
  • I agree, Paul. After the Coco pinch-run tear around the bases on the Wily Mo single, I actually said to my girlfriend, “Man, I don’t even really care that much if they win this game, that was just awesome.”
    Of course, I cared a little, but I felt very little pain on the walkoff homer, just a desire to see the next game.

    Devine June 5, 2007, 11:55 am
  • Pedroia is rookie of the month, no surprise there.

    Anonymous June 5, 2007, 11:56 am
  • The only good thing to come out of the last six days is that though the Red Sox have lost 4 out of 5 games (their worst stretch that I can remember, for certain) their lead has barely taken a hit. On May 30th, prior to their loss to the Indians in that series finale, they were 11 games up on the Orioles in the loss column, thirteen on the hated Yanks. Now, they stand ten up on Toronto, and 12 up on the Yankees. It could have been tighter, for sure.
    Still, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the Sox have lost four of five, including two games they effectively blew chances to win through bad baserunning and bad relief pitching (Sunday night’s game had both, last night’s had the former). The Sox need to go out and pick up one more solid reliever for me to feel comfortable. And they absolutely need to start playing better baseball.

    SF June 5, 2007, 12:00 pm
  • SF- Won’t the Sox have another solid reliever in Tavares once Lester returns next week?

    shawn June 5, 2007, 12:23 pm
  • Like I said in the other thread, the only problem I had with last night was when Hale sent Pedroia on Papi’s double with Manny coming up. Better to hold him there and give Manny a shot than take the bat out of his hands. Other than that, I fully expected a loss last night.
    Love the Matt Damon segment.

    jp-sf June 5, 2007, 12:28 pm
  • Tavarez, for what ever reason, wasn’t very good out of the BP, but seems to be ok as a starter. I don’t know if there is a larger sample size that proves this though.

    LocklandSF June 5, 2007, 12:30 pm
  • Anon about Pedroia was me. But ya. It seems like the only time the Yanks play well (err, relatively) is when they play the Sox. It’s too late too early. Bah.

    Lar June 5, 2007, 12:38 pm
  • SF- Won’t the Sox have another solid reliever in Tavares once Lester returns next week?

    SF June 5, 2007, 1:08 pm
  • Man, everything’s coming up roses for the Sox, eh? Even the losses are warm and fuzzy! What a sweet, amazing loss! I believe too…..that this is dumb.

    jm June 5, 2007, 4:19 pm
  • Too bad for you, dude. I thought it was great that they fought back and stayed in the game.

    Devine June 5, 2007, 4:39 pm
  • Well, jm, how would you rather lose – 5-4 in x-tras like the Sox did last night (while running on fumes from the night/day before), or like the Yanks did on Saturday 11-6, and UGLY…with the loss of Minky for a long while.
    Not to mention the whole Rajah “scar tissue” thing…

    jp-sf June 5, 2007, 4:51 pm
  • Based on his comment, I belive that JM knows allll about dumb.

    Paul SF June 5, 2007, 5:08 pm
  • I tend to feel blue after losing a fourth out of five, regardless of how that loss happened. The fact that the Sox blew a real chance to win the game (at home plate, no less, in extras) and the night before also blew an even bigger game and better chance at winning against their archrival, tend to make me forget about the “stylishness” (my word) of their loss. For me there’s not much to take from last night’s game other than the ticked-up digit in the Sox’ loss column in the standings. So Tavarez pitched ok. But so what? He’s not a starter in a week, if all goes well, and who knows how he’ll do coming into games in relief. They came back? So what? They didn’t come back enough. Wily Mo got a couple of hits? So what? He also botched a single into a triple earlier in the game and cost the Red Sox a run (nobody noted that in this thread, I’ll unhappily do so), and he’s not going to be playing regularly so there’s very little chance that in a week when he plays again he’ll do anything consistent at the plate or solid in the field. Kyle Snyder pitched well? So what? He’s done very well all year so this isn’t anything new. Plus he did make a mistake pitch that lost the game, so clearly he didn’t pitch all that well, that’s not an insignificant fact in assessing the success of last night’s appearance.
    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I just don’t see much to celebrate in a losing stretch, or in losing a game in the 11th inning. I am not jumping off a bridge, hardly that – I am still very confident about this team. I just don’t see reasons to laud a near-miss this strongly. In the end, it is lipstick on a pig, or whipped cream on a bowl of sh*t, or whatever metaphor you want.

    SF June 5, 2007, 5:27 pm
  • If you say so, SF. I still enjoyed myself watching that game, is all. I’m not trying to claim it’s a win or that I would have liked a win less. But it was (in my eyes) a loss with character. A “never say die” loss. And that part of it was fun and neat to watch.

    Devine June 5, 2007, 5:35 pm
  • Devine –
    I agree with you about this loss specifically, but I do find it a little troubling that we are stringing together such a list of losses, not all of which were as pretty as last night’s.

    rootbeerfloat June 5, 2007, 6:05 pm
  • No, I know, rbf. I’ll be changing my tune very quickly if they lose tonight, no matter how they lose. I’m just not feeling too troubled, considering yeah, they’ve lost a lot recently, but *jinx* if they lose tonight, it would be their longest losing streak of the season. At 3. They haven’t lost 3 in a row yet.
    I mean, really.

    Devine June 5, 2007, 6:10 pm
  • Paul, I nominate that for best comeback in the history of mankind! Hahaha just kidding, it was horrible.

    jm June 5, 2007, 6:31 pm
  • to be fair, they’ve faced byrd, wang, mussina, pettitte, and haren over that five game stretch. you’re gonna lose some of those games. there is some small redemption in the fact that the sox still managed to hit these guy’s…just nothing to show for it.

    sf rod June 5, 2007, 6:35 pm
  • OK, OkK Devine, I cry uncle. I will smile and be optimisitc for now. Even though I’m a Sox fan and we NEVER do that in the middle fo the season. Honestly, I will try.

    rootbeerfloat June 5, 2007, 6:54 pm
  • Again, the Red Sox had no business even being CLOSE in that game, so losing it the way they did was a moral victory, at least to me. Losing four out of five sucks, but we all know the Sox have been very lucky, and looking at the last two games especially, it looks as if the luck evened out. If they were getting blown out and playing like the Yankees (hehe) in all four of those games, I’d be concerned. But that’s not happening.
    Yes. They lost. They should have lost. They should have lost by five runs in nine innings, not one run in 11. If I can’t take the win, I’ll take that.

    Paul SF June 5, 2007, 6:58 pm
  • Well, at least you’re all getting me into the right mood to coach my little league game tonight. We’re playing the toughest team and I need to make sure I focus on the things we do right, considering one of my guys was throwing with his glove hand at the first practice. You’re all better than a therapy session!

    rootbeerfloat June 5, 2007, 7:03 pm
  • “considering one of my guys was throwing with his glove hand at the first practice”
    Manny Jr. being Manny Jr.?

    Nick-YF June 5, 2007, 7:06 pm
  • I hope you guys keep on “losing well”! ;)
    Ya, when you’re up 12.5, you can have “good loses”. When you’re down 12.5, you got to have some “dirty wins”. I guess that’s just the way it is..

    Lar June 5, 2007, 7:06 pm
  • Nick – which Manny Jr? =P

    Lar June 5, 2007, 7:07 pm
  • Can we also have a Yanks thread so I can mostly talk to myself?

    Lar June 5, 2007, 7:08 pm
  • Touche, Lar. Being up by double digits certainly allows you to feel better about losing.

    Paul SF June 5, 2007, 7:17 pm
  • Oh, rbf, I’m by no means insisting you or anyone be optimistic, just trying to make a case for my own fairly sunny point of view (and I was probably THE pissed-off guy after the final Yankee game this weekend, so it’s not like I consistently maintain this attitude).
    Again, I think I’ll start to be upset if they lose tonight, when the pitching matchup is our supposed “third ace” (maybe next year, says I) against our castoff.
    If it’s one of Matsuzaka’s good nights, it should be in the bag. If it’s one of his bad nights…we should still have a fighting chance.

    Anonymous June 5, 2007, 7:17 pm
  • And, uh, that was me. Changed browsers.

    Devine June 5, 2007, 7:18 pm
  • I am completely optimistic, make no mistake. I don’t want the fact that I don’t really derive anything inspirational out of an almost-win confused with a lack of optimism.
    Last night the Sox had a great chance to win (despite having “no business being close”) and failed at it. Such are the breaks. A loss is a loss. I am not sure that, even with a 12 game lead, one loss is a whole lot better than another (beyond inspiring pitching performances in tough-luck 1-0 defeats), as long as nobody gets hurt.

    SF June 5, 2007, 8:09 pm
  • sorry paul, i agree with terry…the only reason you didn’t see it the same way is because literally EVERYTHING has gone the sox way this year, including the massive misfortunes of the yanks…but it remains one game, and you guys have a strangle-hold on first place…perspective…
    sf, i understand your angst [is that accurate?]…i mean the red sox seem to have stubbed their toe this week, but until it turns into a slide that makes me raise my eyebrows, then no big deal…they were bound to slip a bit at some point…if they can right themselves and continue to get good pitching [i don’t agree they need another reliever at this point], then you got little to worry about [except maybe the yanks slipping in the back door as a wild card]…

    dc June 5, 2007, 11:36 pm

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