Is there any chance we could convince the Rays to sign Kenny Lofton sometime in the next 24 hours? He may be the only thing that can save the Red Sox season. This is the Kenny Lofton who was on the Indians team that blew the 2-0 lead in the 1999 ALDS to the Sox. He was on the Giants when they blew the 2002 World Series after having the chance to win in 6 games. He was on the 2003 Cubs as they blew the NLCS after being within 5 outs of winning the series. He was on the 2004 Yankees that were the biggest chokes in the history of sports. He arrived in Cleveland last year just in time to be on the team that blew the 3-1 ALCS lead to the Sox. If anyone can bring a curse large enough to sink the Rays, it’s Lofton. Come on Rays, he’s your type of player. He’s fast, and can cover ground in the outfield. Welcome him to Tampa Bay.
In reality, I don’t even know if Lofton could save the Sox. I’ve never seen anything quite like their performance the last few games. Usually, when a team struggles in the playoffs, you can point to something. The Angels lost the ALDS because they ran the bases poorly. The White Sox lost the ALDS because they had to use their best pitchers just to get to the playoffs. The Red Sox lost the last three games of the ALCS because they’re just playing awful. Every single player is simply awful. It’s nothing specific. They’re not striking out too much. They’re not walking too many hitters. (OK, maybe Delcarmen is walking too many people) They’re not playing poor defense. They’re not getting the shaft from the umpire crews. They are just doing everything equally poorly. Pathetic is the word for it. I’d like to be able to say something like, “If Ortiz snaps out of it” or, “if Ellsbury can slap a couple hits” or, “if Beckett finds his mojo” they’ll be ok. The problem is, if one of those things happen, there are still a hundred other things that need to be fixed. They look old. They look complacent. They look sad.
How do they fix it? I have no idea. Francona could juggle the line-up like he did last night. But, I’m not sure the value of switching one guy who’s not performing with another player who’s not performing. Even going to the bench seems pointless. Did bringing in Coco, who can’t hit, to replace Jacoby, who can’t hit, do much? Anything in that area would simply be change for change’s sake. If you’re going that route, you may as well have the players wear different underwear to try and break things up.
There are a couple things I would suggest trying. First, the Sox need to start bunting. Jacoby needs to get on base. Start dropping down bunts and get some baserunners. You can’t disrupt the pitcher’s rhythm from the dugout. The same goes for David Ortiz. Twice in game 4 Ortiz led off an inning trailing by at least four runs. At that point, the Sox need baserunners any way they can get them. The Rays were giving Papi the ENTIRE left side of the field. I know that one of those times in game 4 he hit a triple. But, the rest of the series he was making outs. I agree that the Rays would rather have Ortiz bunt for a hit than rip a double or a homer. But, at this point the Sox would rather have Ortiz bunt a single than ground out to short right.
Second, Daisuke needs to put some hitters on their backs. In 2004, after the 19-8 pasting the Yankees delivered, the Sox had Pedro starting game 5. Good ol’ Pedro thought some of the Yankee hitters were looking a little too comfortable. So, he went high and tight to Matsui and put him on the ground. It may have been a coincidence, but the Yankee hitters didn’t get it going again after that. It seems to me that if Upton and Longoria don’t need to dust off their uniforms during their first at-bats, something’s wrong.
Other than that? The Sox just need to remember that they’re the defending World Series champions, and start acting like it.
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