Thursday, September 20, 2007

A ray of hope. Or not.

The Red Sox just got swept in Toronto. Their 14.5 game lead of late May over the Yankees is down to one and a half games. New York, of course, swept Baltimore and has won 12 of their last 14, including two out of three against the Sox last weekend. That series included a nasty 8-7 loss on Friday, courtesy of flameouts by Okajima and Papelbon, who between them gave up six runs in the 8th; a satisfying 10-1 stomping at Beckett's hands on Saturday; and an excellent game with the wrong outcome – a pitcher's duel on Sunday between Schilling and Clemens culminating in a 4-3 loss after Schill gave up a three-run homer to Jeter in the 8th.

In the Toronto series they just plain sucked. The Sox scored all of four runs in the three games. Meanwhile, there was another horrific outing from Gagne, who was brought in on Tuesday to protect a 2-1 lead in the 8th but coughed up three runs, and another collapse by Papelbon, who likewise entered the 8th in Wednesday's game with a 2-1 lead and gave up a grand slam (though Clay Buchholz took his first loss after pitching a no-hitter in his second ML start).

However, in hopes of staving off mass suicides, the Boston Globe notes today:
A year ago, the Detroit Tigers took the lead in their division May 21, led by as many as 10 games Aug. 7, then blew it. They lost their last five games of the season, all at home - the last three to the Royals, 100-game losers – and had to settle for the wild card. They were lousy the last month of the season, going 12-16. Then they shocked the Yankees in the first round of the postseason, rolled over the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series, and played in the World Series. No one even notices there isn't a divisional flag flying in Comerica Park.

Then there were the Cardinals, who had a seven-game lead in the National League Central a year ago today, then lost seven in a row and eight of nine, their lead shrinking to a half-game, before they righted themselves. The Cardinals won the World Series.

But... but... the fear... the angst... the apprehension...

The Globe's Red Sox home page, by the way, has started featuring the magic number to just get into the playoffs, as well as the magic number for winning the division, which was a foregone conclusion not so long ago. So now we're off to Tampa Bay as we fervently hope that Toronto can do to the Yankees what they just did to the Red Sox.

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