One run in eighteen innings does not a Championship make. In fact, the Red Sox are in danger of seeing a highly productive season fall by the wayside unless they can muster two more home wins this long Columbus Day week-end.
After being shutout on Thursday night, Boston allowed the highly annoying Jared Weaver to “spin” a gem–collecting only 4 hits for the second consecutive game. Only Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits including a ringing triple) was able to solve the slingshotting right-hander.
And Josh Beckett, playing with the same left side of the infield he had in Florida’s 2003 championship run, wasn’t able to deliver enough–especially during a 3-run 7th inning.
So, it’s all or nothing on Sunday at High Noon for young Clay Buchholz. For Terry Francona, there may not be enough Bigelow Green Tea in the world to calm his nerves.
Pitching wasn’t the issue in the ALDS Game 1 defeat of the Red Sox last night in Anaheim. The issue was the lack of hitting on the part of a team that supposedly has one of most feared 1 through 9 lineups in baseball. Maybe the Sox felt they were so close to Hollywood that they had to make a cinematic reference through their performance–you know, “Raiders of the Lost Offense”.
Jon Lester was rattled by a few bad umpiring calls, but none of them factored into the ultimate decision. Sure, maybe he had to deliver more pitches than he should have in his “stressful” 100 or so deliveries. But when he hung a pitch to Torii Hunter with two men on, the game was, for all intents and purposes, over. Hello, “rock-pile”, goodbye “mo-mentum”.
Red Sox hitters (and I use the term advisedly) made John Lackey look like his 2002 World Series persona–not the shakable, quirky guy the Sox have reached in their playoff past.
So, the loss puts a world of heat on tonight’s Game 2 starter, Josh Beckett. Forget the mini-controversy over who was the real “stopper” on the staff. The time for stopping the skid is now. And Beckett has the ball.
The upcoming annual reunion between the Red Sox and Angels in the ALDS is hard to handicap. The Red Sox are better than they were last year in a lot of ways–particularly the strength of their starting pitching. The Angels don’t have Mark Teixeira or K-Rod, but have replaced them with Brian Fuentes (a downgrade) and Kendry Morales (an emerging star).
So, what could be the defining difference between the teams in a short 5-game set? Unfortunately, it may be the inability of Red Sox catchers to throw out the always theft-minded Angels offense.
The Halos actually have 6 players with double-digit steals–led by Chone Figgins and, believe it or not, Bobby Abreu (30 steals). The Red Sox have three, but only Jacoby Ellsbury is a legitimate threat. Rest assured that Mike Scioscia will “release the hounds” at every opportunity against both Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek.
So, the task for John Farrell’s staff will be to keep the speedsters off the base paths to begin with. That means lots of first-pitch strikes, pitching to contact and trusting the Red Sox defense. If the ALDS turns into a track meet, we may be “running” to Blockbuster for our October entertainment needs.