Not a single soul envisioned this kind of a let-down coming off a World Series Championship, but unfortunately, this is what it has come to.
Coming into the series finale versus the Rays, the Red Sox were desperately trying to salvage at least one game in the series. Tampa Bay had other ideas. At one point in the series, the Sox had scored one run in a thirty-seven inning stretch. That alone is enough to make an infant cringe. But this is all self-inflicted. As I have blogged before, Boston is not getting timely hits with runners in scoring position. They haven't got a lot of runners into scoring position all series long, but when the did, they weren't turning them into runs. They have not had any sign of good pitching, outside of John Lackey's gem in a losing effort. The bullpen struggled mightily, insert Andrew Miller's former mustache here, giving up three straight walk off's.
Then today happened...
Brandon Workman would get the nod today, pitching for Felix Doubront who was placed on the DL earlier in the week, looking to start end the misery that is the nine game losing streak. And while it looked to be fairly promising early on, it did not end that way. Workman consistently got himself into jams and having to pitch out of them. The final line on him does not look too bad, 5 IP 5 H 3 ER 3 K. His final inning of work could have been worse as Tampa was hitting the ball seemingly were the Sox were not, hitting the ball hard. Workman eventually got out of the jam, but was still on the hook as the Sox were down 3-1. A couple innings later, the Sox would show signs of life as Johnny Gomes, pinch hitting for the struggling Jackie Bradley Jr., would hit a pinch hit, two-run homerun, tying the game 3-3. The start of good things to come, right? They overcame this kind of stuff all the time last year!
Pitching in the bottom of the inning, the last thing you want to do is give it right back and that's exactly what Craig Breslow did. Typically a reliable pitcher out of the Sox pen, Breslow struggled to locate, leaving too many balls over the plate. Sean Rodriguez deposited a three-run homerun off of Breslow in the inning. Yunel Escobar would also hit a 2-out, 2-run double off of Breslow to push the score to 8-3. But it isn't what Breslow did in the inning that made this the headline of this article. It's what happened when RHP Edward Mujica entered the game. After Mujica's first pitch, standing on second, Yunel Escobar felt obligated to steal 3rd in a game that was essentially in hand. Needless to say, the Red hose were not having this. Struggling to score runs in a ten game losing streak was one thing. Stealing 3rd with 2-outs in the 8th inning was another. Escobar's antics afterwards, challenging the Red Sox dugout also not a very bright move as jawwing ensued with David Ross among others. Johnny Gomes, known for starting one or two of these scuffles runs from his position in left field to stick up for his struggling teammates, shoving Esocbar who was still jawwing with Sox players, ducking anything that came his way. I think you can picture the rest. A typical baseball shove-fest that saw Gomes, Escobar and Rodriguez ejected.
While I'm in no way, shape or form condoning these type of actions, this could be the final straw for the Sox. Why could this be a good thing? How could you remotely think that this is good? Losing ten straight, you've seriously lost it, Alex. Here's why... (Must I really explain to you people? Let me enlighten you.)
The Red Sox showed sign of life at the plate when the game was in doubt. They scored late. They scored in more innings in the game then they had in any other game in the series. While not particularly productive at the plate, they put together good at bats against all pitchers. Making each one earn their outs. Played some small ball, something they did all year last year. Moving runners over into scoring position, while making productive outs...
Is that all your're going to say? Productive outs?
No, the benches clearing incident is the actual reason I'm writing this. The Red Sox still showed that they are still a unified bunch. They showed each other that they will still be there for each and everyone that dons that uniform. Sticking up for one another. A team. Not letting a single person walk on them for any reason. Showing that kind of fire during such a time can only mean good things. Like I stated previously, this still shows that they are playing for each other. Still playing for a whole nation, letting every player and fan know that they are not going down without a fight and that could potentially be the beginning of good things to come.
Now does this mean I think they are going to rail off 15 straight wins, get out of the AL East cellar, and end up first in the division next month? Of course not, but what I am saying is that this could be the turning point to a rather forgetful first two months of the season. This could be the point where they start winning series after series after series. This could be all it takes to turn things around and start playing good baseball.
Good move, Boston. Now it's time to start the season. As a matter of fact, you should probably get on that, starting against the Braves Monday afternoon.