Monday, October 12, 2009
Ok, so I was a couple games off on my prediction. That’s pretty close, right? Can I get partial credit?
I know that before the series, several people were picking the Angels to take the series. I admitted, that the teams were pretty evenly matched, and it would be a close series. Did anyone think that the Sox would be swept, and the three losses would go to Lester, Beckett, and Papelbon? If anyone made that prediction, we need to check their garage for a DeLorean. That’s what’s most frustrating about the whole thing. The Sox had it just the way they wanted it. They just couldn’t get it done.
In Game 1, Lester pitched fine. He got knocked around a bit. But, lots of teams would love that performance from their starter. The offense just couldn’t get it done. Whatever it was…rust, nerves, the Angels pitching, tacos…the bats never came alive. The result wasn’t crushing. Losing a game 1 on the road is really to be expected. You had to assume that the line-up couldn’t go two games in that sort of a funk. Game 1 was also marred by a few terrible calls by first base umpire CB Bucknor. Sure, the calls didn’t actually cost the Sox the game. They didn’t help, but there was no direct affect. You can argue how much extra pitches really hurt a pitcher. Or, how Lester was affected mentally by the poor calls. Whatever it was, it happened. (As revenge some people took it out on Bucknor’s wikipedia page. I thought that was brilliant. It wasn’t crude, or obnoxious. It was thought out and clever. Just what you can expect from Red Sox fans.)
Game 2 was really more of the same. Beckett pitched just fine. He certainly wasn’t the reason they lost. Once again, though, the bats couldn’t do quite enough. It was widely pointed out that the Sox were only batting in the .150’s as a team after the two games, and that’s why they were down 0-2. It was less widely reported that the Angels were only batting in the low .200’s as a team. It’s not like they were knocking the cover off the ball either. Their hits were just slightly more effective. So, after two games, it was as close as a 2-0 series could be. There wasn’t a feeling of dominance from LA. It was just a couple more timely hits. Couple that with the Red Sox history during elimination games, and there was reason for cautious optimism among Sox fans.
Game 3 showed exactly why that confidence was warranted. The bats showed up at home, and scored plenty of runs. That was pretty impressive, really, considering all the trouble Kazmir has given the Sox over the years. As he has shown all year, Clay Buchholz pitched great when it mattered the most. Apparently he should only go against other team’s aces the rest of his career. That may be the definition of clutch. The Sox were able to hand the game over to Billy Wagner with a three run lead starting the eighth. Could Terry Francona have drawn it up any better than that? It just didn’t work. Wagner struggled, and Papelbon had to come in to put out the fire. Unfortunately, he didn’t put the fire out, as much as he threw kerosene on it. He allowed two runners to score, but was able to escape. Fine, no problem there, right? Papelbon will have the lead in the ninth. The Sox even added an insurance run for him in the eighth. Red Sox fans dream of the ball in Pap’s hands with a lead in an elimination game. Unfortunately, Papelbon picked this exact moment to channel his inner Schiraldi. With two outs, and two strikes three different times in the ninth, he couldn’t close it out. A whole new generation of Sox fans were introduced to a crushing defeat. All the kids who only knew of the Sox from ’04 and ’07 finally knew what their parents were talking about. It was the old Sox, blowing exactly what should have been theirs. Stunning.
I have no doubt, that if the Sox played the Angels enough, they’d come out about even. If the Sox had pulled out game 3, I would have felt pretty confident going forward. Just like in the 2007 ALCS, I felt the teams were pretty matched. Even when the Indians had the big lead, you knew that water would find its own level soon. Just like you knew the 2009 season series with the Yanks was going to end about even, I know the ALDS would have too. The Angels won the first three, and those are the only ones that count. That’s the beginning and the end of it.
Where do the Sox go from here? There are all kinds of questions entering this off-season. But, that discussion if for another time. For now… Go LA!
Both LA’s, come to think of it.
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