Okay, so maybe Derek Lowe isn't a head case, but he sure makes me into one. Last night as he blew first a four-run and then a one-run lead, the deflation of the dream that has begun to take root in Red Sox Nation was palpable. Post-season meltdowns were visible wraiths in the air around the rally-bearded Derek as he fussed and fidgeted and gave up two highly untimely home runs.
Manny gaveth, and Manny tooketh away--he and Ortiz launched back-to-back bombs in the top of the eighth to put the Red Sox ahead, and then in the very next half inning a routine fly ball turned into a nightmarish freak show as Manny tripped over a blade of grass and sprawled to the ground, while the ball bounced first beside and then away from him, rolling to the wall to put men on second and third with no outs. Thankfully, Mike "Whiplash" Timlin managed to pitch out of the jam.
Which brought up the Red Sox ninth, another nerve-wracking and singularly ineffectual affair in which Mark Bellhorn had the lone base hit. Staked to just one run, Keith Foulke took the hill for a foul-filled close that whittled our fingernails down to nubs.
It was the kind of game that turned out to have been great, but you didn't know it until it was over. Why does that always seem to be the case this year when the starter is one D. Lowe?
But you know what they say about gift horses and mouths and such, and so after a three-game sweep over the White Sox, the Red Sox sit 5.5 games behind the struggling Yankees, who were shown on last night's SportsCenter highlights in various states of conniption on the field and in the dugout, most notably an A-Rod tantrum in which the multi-millionaire visited his wrath upon a blue plastic water cooler.
Joe Torre found himself in the hot seat, as he attempted to explain his team's current 1-5 streak; Red Sox fans at home, meanwhile, smell blood and have begun to grin uncontrollably.
No one knows what will happen, but the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way, at least for now. We're beginning to remember years like 1988, in which the Sox rallied from ten back to take the division, and even 1978, thinking this may be some sort of karmic reversal, and wondering who may turn out to be our Bucky Dent.
What we should not forget is that the Yankees, and their community of fans, have the distinct advantage here, as everywhere--and not just the weight of history but the confidence that whatever the opposite of cursed is, they are. They have not faith, but knowledge, that things go their way 99.9% of the time.
What we have is their fear of that 0.1%.
Truly, I would not change places with a Yankees fan for all the World Series rings there are. It's more difficult to stay on top than to claw your way up there. It's more difficult to sustain constant perfection, and more difficult and more devastating to face the prospect of a fall.
That's why there's a rivalry, no matter what the records are, year in and year out. The Red Sox represent the threat of failure that gnaws at the heart of Yankeedom. That's what we have.
Regardless of whether these dreams come to fruition this season, they are sure to make this late summer fascinating. We may be witnessing another classic tale in our sordid history, and for that we can only be grateful.
5.5 games, now officially below the number of times we will play the frontrunners in the coming months.
Man battle stations.