Sunday, September 21, 2008

Playoff Picture Getting Clearer

The Red Sox' 6-3 loss to Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays last night was no big surprise to me. The big surprise was that Halladay only lasted 6 innings. I was hoping that would open a door for the Red Sox, expose a weakness in the Toronto bullpen, and result in a late game win that would eliminate the Jays and the Twins from playoff contention while keeping pace with the juggernaut that Tampa Bay has become.

Roy HalladayAlas, the Sox were unable to pull together a late inning rally. They scored their 3 runs all in the 3rd inning on an RBI single by Big Papi that sent Dustin Pedroia home from second, and a 2 run home run from Jason Bay. They had another two chances to score, but they both fell short. In the 5th inning, they managed to load the bases with 2 outs, only to have Jed Lowrie strike out. In the 8th, they had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, only to have Alex Cora ground out to end the threat.

Jon Lester had a rough start to the game, but settled in after that. In the 2nd inning, I was not sure if Lester would even be back out for the 3rd inning. The Jays sent 9 batters to the plate in the 2nd, and would still be going if Lyle Overbay had not, mercifully, grounded into a double play to end it. But Lester not only came back for the 3rd, he lasted to the 7th inning holding the Jays scoreless in that span.

Jason BaySo, where do we stand today? The offense is weakened with Mike Lowell and JD Drew still out with injuries. And if I hear you griping about Drew not playing, come over here so I can slap you in the head. Where was your griping when Papi was out, or Lowell, or Lugo (okay - never mind about Lugo)? Drew has been clinically diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back. He has been in consultation to consider season ending surgery, which he has passed up on to be in position to contribute to his team, and has been in constant work to get thought it. You can play with a sore arm, achy knee, etc. But you simply cannot play when your back is out. Just try swinging at a 95 mph ball with your back out and you'll get the idea. Do you really want him out there when there is no way he can hit the ball?

Okay, now that you've realized how foolish your frustrated thoughts have been, where was I? Oh yeah, offense. With Lowell and Drew, the offense definitely drops down a notch, and that hurt last night. The worry is more for the playoffs. Can these guys BOTH get back to near 100% in time for the playoffs? For playoff action, as close to 100% as possible is what we need. Alex Cora as starting shortstop throughout the playoffs with a decent rookie at third does not feel like a championship waiting to happen.

With the Division Title all but out of sight, I think we should start resting our pitching. Jon Lester, last night, exceeded the most innings he's ever pitched in a season. Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield have both been out with injuries late this season. Let's give them all an extra day off, take them out of games early, keep pitch counts under 100, and build up strength for the Angels.

Face it, the Rays are just about out of reach. If the Sox finish the season 8-0, the Rays would have to go 5-4 for the Sox to take the title. For the Wild Card, the Sox need but win two games and they can coast the rest of the way in. At this point, I vote for coasting, healing the troops, building strength, and coming out like gangbusters.

P.S. Did you hear the rumor that Joe Girardi was going to be fired by Hank? No? Me either, but why don't we start one???

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

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