My goodness what a game last night. It actually changed my plans for the evening. After a late night for game three, I knew I couldn’t do two late nights in a row. So, last night made sense to call it early. If the Sox lost game four, I certainly didn’t want to watch them do it. And, I could catch game five and get to see them play again. If the Sox won, I could get the result on the news in the morning, and get ready for Saturday. But, either way I could get some sleep.
I figured I’d just watch a few innings first.
I couldn’t stop. The pitchers kept tossing zeroes. The teams kept squandering chances. By the time the Rays took the lead, I was vested. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m certainly glad I decided to stick it out.
While I was watching the game, I realized who Joe Maddon reminded me of. No, not Carl Fredricksen (although he does). It’s Jimy Williams. Remember Jimy? Used to make move after move just for the sake of making moves, and he got credit for great managing when it worked out? But, if you looked into it deeper, it wasn’t usually his move that worked out. He’d pinch hit for a guy in a one run game, and he would reach base on an error. Then, he’d pinch run for him. Then Manny would hit a two run homer. Williams would be credited for making all the right moves to lead to the big inning. But, if you really looked at it, the guy he pinch hit should have been out, and the pinch runner didn’t matter because of the home run trot. I get the same feeling with Maddon. He’ll pinch hit for guys. He’ll lose his DH. He’ll have his starters go one inning. And, if the Rays don’t blow it, he gets credit for making all these great moves. But, the guy he pinch hit for made an out. He didn’t need to lose the DH first if he wanted to pinch hit the back-up catcher. And, if he wanted to get his starter out after an inning, just have the other guy start in the first place. But, he made all the moves. He managed all over the place. So, he must be a genius.
Thankfully that doesn’t matter anymore. The Sox got past the Rays, and now are in the familiar position of waiting to see who they get to host in the playoffs. Once again they will be rested and in order while the other team will need to play an extra game. Once again the Sox can sit and wait as the other teams burn through pitchers just for the chance to come to Boston. In this case, it looks like both Justin Verlander and Bartolo Colon will be rendered unusable for the weekend because they have to pitch tomorrow. That’s a pretty nice advantage for the AL East Champs. Once again, the Sox hope the game goes about 19 innings.
Another nice thing that happened last night was pinch hitting Xander Bogaerts. I’m not one of those people who have been screaming for him to replace Drew in every game against a lefty. But, chances are at some point the kid will need to be in a tight spot. Being able to get him in a couple of those last night was a wonderful luxury. Hard to imagine a situation will get much more intense than late in a close potential close-out game. The fact that he stayed patient and was rewarded will be a great example for him should the situation present itself later.
As a team, this game was very important. We already knew this group could win a playoff game when they scored a bunch of runs. The fact that they also won this game was a big test passed. They can win a game when it comes down to manufacturing a run. They can stay confident when they squander opportunities. They can come through. Which is great. I’m guessing they’ll need that skill in the games to come.