David Ortiz has the night off. Apparently winning games at will has tuckered the big man out. Ortiz has appeared in all 76 games and tonight will probably prove no different once herky-jerky starter Dontrelle Willis departs. If the Red Sox need a pinch hitter, Big Papi will certainly get the call. Perhaps aware that Francona had already had to renege on a promised day off to slugger Manny Ramirez earlier this year, Ortiz delivered explicit instructions for Francona when the team charter landed early Friday morning: “Don’t call.” (John Tomase, Clubhouse Insider)
Well, but we did, and Ortiz was up in the last of the ninth with a man on and the Sox down by three. Even his mighty bat was not enough to overcome the deficit--or, as it turned out, the distance from home plate to beyond the right field wall. His fly ball seemed to hang in midair at the apex of its arc, agonizing about whether or not to leave the yard. In the end, we did, but he didn't, and the streak ended at 12, in almost as dramatic a fashion as it had been executed in the first place. They also set a new major league record for consecutive games without recording an error, at 17. Someone order them up a sheet cake and some Hawaiian punch--or maybe even an ice cream social at the office. They've earned it.
Thomase noted that the Sox haven't recorded a streak this long without making the playoffs since 1937. It is true that there have been some strokes of audacious luck along the way this past month, but that sense of being born under a blessed star is as much a requirement for a team to win a championship as baseball fundamentals. So far this year, the Tigers and Mets also have that sheen about them, as have the Blue Jays on occasion. The Red Sox certainly do by now, but it has not always been like that this season, and it's probably healthier to remember that.
It's also healthier to remember that, like David Pauley and John Lester before him, Jason Johnson followed the pattern common to all the Sox' spot starters this season aside from Kyle Snyder--he lost his first game. The streak can be attributed to a relative lack of upheaval in the pitching department of late--now there's another piece to be smoothed onto the whole, and as we've seen, it doesn't happen right away.
Far worse, to me, than dropping one game out of 13, is the prospect that Matt Clement might come back soon. Please, God, no. Why are we so insistent that Clement is going to work out, ever? Why do we keep throwing him into the mix? This balance of rookies and veterans we've got going right now ain't broke. Don't screw around with it.