The analogy that popped into my head during last night's game was this: you know the first day back from vacation, when you're feeling fresh and rested and ready to go get 'em...right up until you open your email and there are 1,284 new messages? That's sort of what it was like watching that train wreck of a welcome back from the All-Star Break last night.
Buchholz got the FUBAR festivities started with a wretched first inning, but he was given a chance to get out of it, and settled down for the next two. He gave up a solo homer to Garrett Anderson, but that wasn't very far out of the ordinary--it was the fifth inning where things really went pear-shaped.
If it had been Julio Lugo that committed the seminal error of the fifth inning, I'd probably be among those advocating, yet again, that he be run out of town on a rail. But this time it was the far more likable (and reliable) Alex Cora who bobbled the ball just long enough for Torii Hunter to reach base, and I chalked it up to the whims of the fates.
While I don't think Cora should be buried over it, the error did seem to open the Pandora's box. Forget the bump-and-run Angels of the last four or five years, relying on small ball and smart baserunning--all of that's still there, but they've infused their lineup with power this year. Buchholz didn't know it yet, but he was in for a rough ride from then on.
Or maybe he did. Hard to tell if it was in reaction to the error or if it had come over him some time earlier, but by the time he was facing Garrett Anderson, he seemed to be melting down mentally--the look on his face was of total, heart-pounding panic. Finally Tito ended his misery, but unfortunately the humiliation did not end for the Red Sox.
I was philosophical about Buchholz. He threw a no-hitter, but it may have been beginner's luck; he has quite a ways to go yet to become a seasoned major leaguer, and nights like last night are part of that process. He needs to go through it. His greenness kept showing as he squirmed on the dugout bench while David Aardsma lived up to the name on the mound.
I was feeling less patient with Manny, especially in light of the allegation that has come out about the already famous strikeout in Yankee stadium being deliberate, a response to the fine he'd already incurred for shoving the traveling secretary. Or, at least, that was the story.
It's tradition in this town for Manny to get barbecued every summer along with the burgers and dogs. It's not that I've concluded there's a conspiracy, though, either--sometimes it's hard not to wonder just what he could possibly be thinking.
Take the way he bumbled the fly ball from Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the 6th really could have been taken either way, too. It's not like flubbing the hell out of fielding plays is something new for Manny. But even Remy and Orsillo noted that the botched dive that started it all was totally unnecessary to catch the ball.
And then the exaggerated way he flopped back to the ground again, finally all but literally pulling the ball out of his ass...Javy Lopez's teeth were gritted. Jacoby Ellsbury was standing over Manny, trying to grab the ball, and Manny wouldn't let him. Manny came up grinning sheepishly and laughing, but Tito spat and stared daggers toward left field from the dugout.
Another thing that could go either way. Nobody likes padding the other team's already embarrassing lead with an abjectly humiliating fielding error. And interpreting expressions on the faces of people I don't technically know, I realize, is not an exact science. But I know the feeling of disappointment that came over me as I watched Red Sox players and coaches all looking in his direction as though they were choking back murderous urges. I know it's making me wonder just what I should believe.