As it turns out, yesterday was only a brief respite from a relentless pounding the Red Sox are taking in the second half vs. the Yankees.
It began with hope after a decent performance the previous time around. A maddening, unreasonable hope; not two days ago I was finally writing the Sox off. For good. Again. Then, the next day they made me look like a fool for doubting.
"That's what baseball fandom's all about," replied Sam when I told her this over text message Saturday night. Maybe, but this season has been particularly frustrating; if you can affect a stoic pessimism or the flaws in your team are minor, it's one thing, but there's nothing that will make you more irritable than hopes dashed repeatedly. Somehow they keep pulling me back in, and that's what I hate most about moments like the first pitch of tonight's game, which went rocketing into the home bullpen as if to say: Ha ha, suckers.
Even as far as 5-3, with the Commander still out there eating up innings and the game within reach, I forbade myself to jump back off the bandwagon (though truth be told I feel more like I've been dragging along behind it for a while).
Not a moment after that decision, Alex Rodriguez smoked one off Beckett, just over the fateful red line on the edge of the Monster. 7-3, Yankees, and a hush settled over Fenway Park.
Some bile has been spewed about the fact that Ortiz sat vs. Sabathia when he's a career .304 with two homers against the big guy, but as Tito explained, those numbers may be, ahem, a little stale. The 2009 Papi has a pretty even lefty / righty split: .229 against lefties and .230 against righties. In other words, he's sucked against both.
There's also the Varitek / Martinez succession controversy, but with Martinez in at first base that debate is moot, as is the Varitek / Martinez / Beckett catching triangle at issue after the series in Toronto, since tonight the Pitcher Whisperer (per Chad Finn) was behind the plate.
Before the game was over, a thread sprang up in the public forums on SoSH entitled, "What the holy hell is wrong with Beckett?" Theories were scattered, and many comments amounted to shrugs. Beckett has said in the past that people forget he is capable of just sucking eggs sometimes. Right now, that seems the most plausible explanation for his recent performances.
Unfortunately, mortality from Beckett is something this year's Sox can ill afford, which is why these smaller arguments, in the end, feel like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. A team built for the long haul can accomodate the fact that its top-of-the-rotation starters are not machines.
Already, scrutiny has increased on the way this team is constructed, and the recent off-season decisions made by the front office. It reminds me of the 2007 Patriots, who went out and got Randy Moss after an attempt Tom Brady to make do with spit and bailing wire at wide receiver went over rather badly in the AFC Championship game.
That debate is for the Hot Stove, though, and right now it remains the dog days of August. This month, the Sox have held their own against weaker teams like the Jays and roughly equivalent teams like the Rangers, but the Yankees have played as if possessed by spirits. The way these teams have matched up before and after the All-Star Break has been ridiculously uneven; before, the Red Sox racked up 8 wins, and after, they've managed only one -- yesterday.
The Sox have Wake and Daisuke returning from injury, which will hopefully mean Brad Penny gets the Matt Clement treatment, and yes, there is a chance they could return as their ideal selves, the offense could heat up to its potential, and then the entire complexion of this thing could change.
And yet even as I write that, feeling just a glimmer of that pain-in-the-ass hope creeping back in, the memory of tonight's fifth inning jumps to mind. Tonight, it's hard to imagine much beyond this malaise until a "hard reboot", as they say in the trades, can happen once the season is over.