Saturday, September 22, 2007

Game 154: The Heroes Return

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1

Robin called me earlier this evening, and made a deal with me - a win/win bargain with the Devil, if you will. "If the Sox win tonight," he said, "you write the post. If they lose, I'll take it, and you'll be reading the gibberings of a madman tomorrow morning." If the outcome of tonight's lopsided contest had been different, I can't say I would have blamed him for his choice. But the baseball gods had other plans; plans I might have tuned into from the beginning had I noticed that the Red Sox (90 and 63) and the Devil Rays (63 and 90) had polar opposite records as the night began.

Enter our heroes. David Ortiz, mighty slugger, bereft of his fellow sultan of swat but struggling mightily against the vicissitudes of New York and Toronto. Coming into tonight, he is one for his last fourteen with three walks and seven strikeouts. He's popped out against Rivera to end a tough game at home, then done virtually nothing against the surprisingly resilient Canadians. He's hungry for some good hitting.

Josh Beckett, prodigal son, ace of the staff, heir apparent to Curt Schilling's mantle. In his short career, he's come closer and closer to the vaunted - if meaningless - twenty win mark, sniffing the milestone in last year's wretched campaign but falling short at sixteen wins. A winner in his last three outings coming into tonight, he has not given up more than four runs since July, dipping under six strikeouts a game only once. He has become the pitcher the Red Sox traded for in 2005, and he's ready to halt the skid.

Together, supported by the odd cast of characters that now makes up the dysfunctional lineup the Sox send to the field every evening, they don't just beat the Rays. They outlast once and future nemesis Scott Kazmir and massacre the rest. Bullpen pitchers fall like ears of corn before the might of Sox bats, as Papi adds home run number thirty-two to his collection, joining Varitek and Lowell in the jack-fueled onslaught. Beckett throws 113 pitches over six innings, gives up four hits and two walks but strikes out eight, while his relief stays perfect over three innings and four pitchers to get him the vaunted twentieth win. Even better: a perfect storm, as those same deadly Torontonians beat New York in extra innings and extend Boston's AL East lead. Hope dawns again in the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation, and all can go to their rest excited for the morrow.