Well, well, well, Mr. Hyde. I've been wondering if and when you were going to show up.
Once again, Daisuke couldn't get out of the fifth. He has at this point officially earned the "mediocre to bad" designation for the postseason. And yes, that is a problem.
But honestly? I thought that Kenny Lofton home run could've been a spectacular catch with just a little bit of luck for JD Drew. And four runs is not an insurmountable deficit (not like, say, seven).
More important, in my mind, is the fact that just before Daisuke surrendered the homer to Lofton (btw, give me a break with the curtain call, guys, how Yankee-like), the Red Sox loaded the bases.
Then they stranded all of the runners.
That's what really set the tone. Once Cleveland had gotten its jollies with Lofton's homer, you could feel the momentum and the energy shift in that stadium. You could see how the Cleveland players were getting off on it, too, jumping around and dancing and generally feeling great about themselves as the crowd roared on.
The Sox had the chance to take the wind completely out of those sails before the Lofton homer even happened. They could easily have started things off with two runs of their own, or even maintained a lead after Lofton's moon shot, with a nice base hit. All it would've taken would have been for one bat to wake up, and the entire complexion of the thing would've changed.
But Coco Crisp grounded into a double play, and that was the moment I knew two things: 1) Mr. Hyde had followed us to Cleveland and 2) The Sox were probably not going to win this game.
I'm also feeling considerably less sanguine about the series overall now that the other shoe has dropped and this infuriating, offense-less, lifeless June-July version of the team has shown up (a similar chicken-and-egg relationship exists between the mediocrity of the extra-innings pitching and the lifelessness of the offense in clutch situations during Game 2). These are two incredibly evenly matched teams, but that only magnifies the little things. And so far, most of the little things are going in Cleveland's favor.
Like the homer, of course, but take the bugs, for another example. It's the butt of jokes mostly now, but that "bug game" was huge for the Indians in this postseason. Meanwhile Eric Wedge was quoted last night as saying that the "bug game" was the result of a perfect storm--an unseasonably warm night in October, the Indians playing at home, at a park which happens to be near a large body of water, and on top of all those coincidences, a very rare event indeed, apparently: the Fourth Hatching of the Midges. (I swear I am not making this up.)
In other words, there's not much other explanation for the swarms last week than that it was a special curse visited specifically on the Yankees.
And that, friends, is the kind of thing that gets my superstitious mind a-crankin.'
One of the only wise and true things I think Dan Shaughnessy has ever said was his comment on the Patriots' first Super Bowl team in 2001-2002. He said after the "Tuck Rule" call pushed the Snow Bowl game in their favor that he knew right then the Patriots were going to win it all that year. Not only did they have the players, he felt, and the rest of the technical ingredients, but they'd finally shown they had that last, necessary element of a championship year: luck and good fortune.
This isn't going to be a prediction that if the Indians win, it will be because they are lucky. But ever since that thought from Shaughnessy, in both the leagues I follow every year I've looked for that spark of the preternatural when trying to predict who might win it all. So far in baseball, I've been right every year with the exception of the Detroit Tigers last year. I saw it for sure in the White Sox when they beat us in 2005. And I remember a certain team in 2004 that seemed to have plenty of miracles fall in its favor. At this stage of the season and this level of the game, sometimes it takes those little karmic pushes to make a big difference. And right now, it feels like the Indians have that element sewn up, from their run at the end of the season and the midge-aided defeat of the Yankees to the fact that Lofton's homer didn't drop in just an inch or two to the right...I'm just saying, it's starting to feel, after a crucial loss for the Red Sox, like the gods are smiling on them.
Of course, none of that really means anything. Like I said, it turns out I couldn't have been more wrong when it came to sensing that pixie-dust feeling from the Tigers last year. And in general, I still believe that the Red Sox, if they really show up, can certainly kick Cleveland ass.
But from here on in, expect the uncanny. Expect the astonishing, the impossible. We're at that magical witching hour for the season in which the regular-season numbers, even the postseason numbers, all the scouting reports, basically anything you can put on paper, doesn't matter. From here on, it's just a matter of where the breaks fall. Which bugs hatch. An inch or two off the core of the bat. A bead of sweat in a pitcher's hand.