Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Deliverance

ALCS Game 6: Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Rays 2

Followed my love from coast to coast/Chased by demons, chasing ghosts/And when I wound up facing the sea/Heard the waves crashing, laughing at me
Tonight was the prove it game: the game where the Rays could shut the door, kill the momentum, make Boston's fourth straight setup to an ALCS comeback (since '86 and going strong!) a dream and nothing more. The Rays had "Big Game James" Shields, unlucky - and unlikely - victim of Game 1, raring back to send his team to their first World Series berth and cap the penultimate chapter of a truly unlikely season. The Sox had Beckett; Beckett the martyr to the unknown drag, Beckett the now uncertain post-season hero, his record of kick awesome postseason starts tarnished by this year's October activities. Boston had the momentum, but Tampa Bay had the odds.

I waded into that icy black/I saw there was no, no coming back/No deliverance
At first, it seemed as if the very fates were conspiring against Boston: a problem in Atlanta kept the TBS off the air just long enough for B. J. Upton to go big long style on a Beckett fastball, putting the already uncertain denizens of Professor Thom's (including yours truly) into a tizzy of desperate anticipation: what sort of Beckett would we be getting tonight?

Ducked my head under, started to drift/Let the tide take me and down I went/I saw great wonders shunned from above/I saw blind monsters twisted in love/No deliverance
Fortunately, the Sox seemed to have (finally) anticipated Beckett's potential malaise on the mound: his fastball speed dropped a good five miles an hour after Upton's home run and the man with the fireball arm suddenly became a junkballer, throwing curveballs and cutters and low-90s fastballs with just enough bite on them to keep the Rays low on the board through five. It wasn't the prettiest performance and it was certainly far from the dominance that brought Beckett to Boston, but it the job done.

And when I saw her, bathed in light/A host of angels knelt at her side
Meanwhile, "Big Game James" was anything but: four pitches into the second, Youkilis answered Upton's home run with a deep fly of his own, sending the crowd - a mix of diehards, pink hats, and douchebags of various stripes (so help me God, if Professor Thom's falls victim to its own success and I have to watch another game with such a group of poseurs, standing around blocking the view on the screens while they chat amongst themselves, I will be forced to firebomb. There's nothing worse in sports than a bandwagon fan with no substance. I'm pretty sure I was getting dirty looks from one woman in front of me for clapping, for chrissake. You don't like it? Don't go to an effing sports bar!) into extacies and setting up a push that connected firmly to another run scoring drive by Pedroia, Ortiz, and Youkilis in the third. As Shield's pitch count mounted, the Sox started to circle in the water, never quite taking the big bad bite but doing enough damage to keep all of Tampa Bay's relief corps on their toes. Even the Rays' second home run, miraculously knocked in by Jason "Tampa Bay Rays MVP" Bartlett and his magical ability to lean into a pitch, Derek Jeter style, weren't enough to slow Boston down for even a half inning: Bartlett's solo shot quickly found an answer in a two run screamer by El Capitan in the top of the sixth. Okajima and Masterson shut the door; Papelbon delivered electricity in ten pitches and sent the Ray running into the night.

She said "You have forsaken all you believe/Crossed earth and oceans to be with me/I'll be your lover, I'll be your wrack/And now you're never coming back."/No deliverance
So, here we stand:once again contemplating the world a mere step away from the World Series. One good game; one solid Lester outing separates us from sweet comeback number four and a showdown with Philadelphia. Boston has the momentum, has time and experience on its side, has the capacity to make this thing one and done and take the pennant. No deliverance for Tampa Bay, guys. No deliverance.