Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epic - And a Stomach-Punch Game

Bill Simmons is wont to post on Fridays. Normally, at this point in the calendar, it's a football column that discusses his picks for the weekend's games. Somehow I think his post tomorrow will be about this game.

Bill is also given to calling games where you take a heartbreaking loss as a Stomach Punch Game. Especially when you lead 7-0 in the seventh in a series you led 3 games to one.

I couldn't figure out why Maddon removed Kazmir, but, he had thrown 111 pitches through his 6 innings. Balfour had been good in the post-season, and even though he lost the shutout on Pedroia's single, all was not lost.

Until the 1-0 pitch to Ortiz.

Big Papi had struggled mightily in the playoffs, and especially in this series, with one meaningless triple in this series (meaningless because the game was 13-1 against when he hit it). As he goes, so, it seems, go the Red Sox. The fans were appropriately supportive of the team, but there was understanding of how difficult the task was at hand, to come back from 6 down with 7 outs to go.
When that ball landed in the right field stands Fenway exploded. Not only were the Red Sox only down 3, but Papi had finally, FINALLY delivered in the clutch in this post season. They had reason to hope.

And, they believed they would win this game. More importantly, the Red Sox players did, too.

The rest was almost a foregone conclusion.

I thought Francona used his bullpen correctly. Okajima came in early when it became apparent Dice didn't have it. Despite the 2-run double to Upton, Paplebon in the seventh and eighth was the right call; he had to hold the Rays right where they were in order to have a chance.

And finally, the team got some luck. Upton slightly overran Kotsay's double and it ticked off his glove. Gross had his plant foot slip when trying to throw home on Crisp's single that tied the game in the eighth. Longoria made a horrible throw on Youkilis' grounder (after making a great play on the ball) to extend the ninth. And Drew's game winning ground-rule double was just over the outstretched glove of Greg Gross.

Before we get all warm and fuzzy about Boston coming back, again, from 3-1 down to win the AL (it would be the third time in 5 years they've done that), remember - no Boston starter has made it out of the fifth since Dice went into the seventh in Game 1. Tampa gets the next 2 at home. Shields is tough at home, as is Garza who would pitch Game 7. Beckett isn't right.

However, I will say this: Tampa better win this thing in 6. Because if they give Jon Lester a chance to redeem himself after the game 3 egg he laid, they might not have enough to win.

I had to mention all of that, because I'm sure Simmons will focus on the inevitability of Boston's comeback based on this game tomorrow.

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