Friday, October 17, 2008

Boston 8, Tampa Bay 7

"Wow - I didn't get any sleep last night. The game was fantastic, but didn't end until after midnight, and of course, a game that ends like that, you can't go to bed. The adrenaline's pumping, and you have to keep flipping channels, getting all of the highlights and interviews again..."

That's how this post might have started. If I hadn't gone to bed at 10:30. But I did. So when I went find out how bad the final score was this morning, I discovered that I'd missed the greatest comeback in ALCS history, the second greatest comeback in the history of post-season baseball, and the Red Sox get to play at least one more game this season.

  • Tampa Bay, through the seventh inning yesterday, was on an incredible hot streak. After being shut out in game one, they proceeded to score 38 runs on 13 HR over the next 36 innings. Those things happen, though it's unusual to see it happen in the playoffs. It all started against Beckett - if it continues against Beckett on Saturday night, the Red Sox comeback last night would have gotten them one extra game and two extra plane flights. If they cool off, however...

  • 5 hits, 3 HR in 4 innings is a very un-Matsuzaka-like performance.

  • I made a comment after the division series noting how well the Red Sox young right-handed relievers had performed. Masterson and Papelbon have continued to perform that way. Manny Delcarmen's allowed 7 runs in 2 innings of work. Odds are, they'll need a good inning or two from him in Tampa if they want to keep playing.

  • There were obviously several huge hits last night - Drew's HR to cut the lead to one, Crisp's single to tie it, Drew's game-winning "single" - but the biggest was Ortiz' HR in the seventh. They were 7 outs away, down 6, and Ortiz has been awful in this post-season. If he goes down quietly there, the inning ends and the game's almost certainly over. But instead, the lead was only three instead of six, and that changed the entire feel of the game.

  • Long-time readers know that I put very little stock in cliches about "clutch" players and "choking." Certainly, some people handle stressful situations better than others, but people who cannot perform in stressful situations do not make it to the Major Leagues. The weeding-out process is not only physical, it's mental. Before a player gets close to a Major League field, he's had to perform in front of scouts, make the transition to pro ball, deal with any number of high-stress situations. All that said, it is possible - not certain, maybe not even likely, but possible - that some of the Tampa players may be a little less loose and comfortable taking the field on Saturday night than they have been the past couple of nights. Will that happen? Will it make a difference? I don't know, and certainly, the Red Sox can win without that happening, or lose despite it happening. It's just something that might have some impact.

  • The Red Sox have now faced playoff elimination 9 times with Terry Francona at the helm. They're 8-1 in those games. They'll need to get to 10-1 to keep alive any chance of repeating as World Series Champs...

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