Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The View From Second Place

Go ahead and hit the panic button. The cord finally came loose on this first place deal, and the previously written-off injury plagued and struggling Yankees are all of a sudden invincible, and more importantly, in first place. Our boys let the lead slowly slip away, and tonight was the last straw on a run that lasted since early July. And I gotta admit, first place was fun while it lasted. Looking down to see the Yankees floundering around three or four games back, grinning at the thought of finally winning a division title for the first time in a decade. Now we’re playing catch up, a situation that never really crossed my mind during that run.

The game started off as planned, with a sac fly and a couple RBI singles, one coming from Mr. Rent-A-Bust. After a Manny homer, the Sox led 4-2 in the seventh inning when Tim Wakefield brought me to a better place. An inning where Wake struck out two batters on magnificent knuckleballs in huge situations, where I formally proclaimed him the MVP Runner Up behind Ortiz for this team. The eighth appeared as if the brick wall would finally come crashing down, but Wake managed a 3-0 double play from rising star Carl Crawford. Cantu singled to make it 4-3, and all of a sudden I was pacing around the room, searching for the boiling pot of water to slowly pour down my throat when Timlin came in.

Timlin came in. And what ensued was more of a depressing act than a pitcher getting clobbered. A friend of mine pointed out that the D’Rays were just waiting, plotting, hoping to stay in the game so a fastball pitcher can serve them up some meat. It was obvious they were struggling to hit Wakefield, and I think in that situation, you have to leave Wake in the game. It’s his ballgame to win or lose, and hell, he’s the best friggin pitcher we’ve got. His pitch count wasn’t a factor, either.

(Also, letting Hyzdu bat in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded was wrong. Lefty Trevor Miller was pitching, so you bring up the switch hitting Varitek, with Shoppach the emergency catcher on the bench. You might be thinking, why would you waste him for that one at-bat? It turned out to be huge runners stranded on base, and I believe a brain lapse from Francona. Hit the vet Tek over the rookie Hyzdu in that situation, please.)

Timlin then almost gave up the cycle in the inning, causing me to pull a Kevin Brown and punch the wall as hard as my fist could possibly thrust forward. Gomes doubled, someone tripled, someone singled, it was all really a blur to me. I was flipping back and forth between our game and the Yankees game, where Rivera got into some trouble but found a way to win like always. The Orioles couldn’t score a run if it came up and slapped them. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this sucks.

Keep this in mind: we’re only a half game back. Actually, the pressure is less trying to hold a division lead than chasing the big bad Yanks and being the underdog like last year. If the Yanks lose tomorrow, then it’s all tied up again. Let’s not lose faith and give up on this team quite yet. I know the starting pitching and bullpen are in complete shambles, our offense is inconsistent at times and the manager screwed up tonight, but we’ve still got season left. This is where the real fans step up, believe, keep the faith, and hope and pray this team starts to find a way.


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