Sunday, September 23, 2007

Games 155 and 156: Sometimes You Get the Bear, and Sometimes the Bear Gets Tim Wakefield

Final Scores:

Game 155: Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6
Game 156: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5

Well, we're in, come hell or high water. It wasn't easy - the Devil Rays showed the sort of fight that, while it doesn't necessarily make for pretty baseball, must make their managers and ownership wonder how far they could take their team given the right set of circumstances. Of course, Boston isn't playing anywhere close to full strength, while the Rays have a field full of guys with abilities to prove and 2008 roster spots to secure, which creates the end-of-the-year parity that frustrates wins (or makes them harder to secure), but a couple of hard-fought contests none-the-less.

On Saturday, Julio Lugo was the hero, making the Sox the first team in baseball to secure an official spot in the first round of the dance with a two run homer off of Rays' closer Al Reyes that pulled Boston ahead seven to six in the top of the ninth. The homer (one of four in the game) not only erased a one-run deficit, but pulled Javier Lopez out of the hot water for blowing Matsuzaka's most recent attempt at win number fifteen. It also marked the fourth time in five years that Boston's secured a post-season berth, and made Terry Francona the only manager in Red Sox history to bring Boston to the post-season three times. That figure blows my mind, by the way; it's hard to believe that with all of the good teams Boston's had over the years (enough for 18 post-season appearances, third all time in the AL after New York and Oakland), there's never been a core team good enough to get one manager three post-season entrances until this year. We truly live in the best of times to be a Red Sox fan.

Today the Rays rallied from defeat, taking Wakefield - who, you might recall, is Chairman of the Board of all things Tampa Bay - and beating him like a rented mule. Four runs on seven hits and three walks spells the end of the perfect streak in St. Pete for Wake, who has run out of chances to do any more than tie his career season win total of seventeen. By the way, Tim, if I'm any way responsible for jinxing you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I let my enthusiasm get the better of me while you were on a screaming hot streak and I'm sorry.

One last off day tomorrow to gather resources and prepare for the final home stand of the year, a six game effort against Oakland and Minnesota. These games will be the acid test: two potentially difficult teams and a 1.5 game lead (that the Yankees with expand or contract tomorrow with a final game against the Jays) balanced by the home field advantage, all adding up to one exciting (if balanced) final run at the AL East crown. A combination of six Boston wins and New York losses means electric victory; anything else means close defeat. The end of the homestretch beckons.