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Just in case there’s someone out there wondering what it feels like to be in this situation, it’s painful.  Let the record show that it is painful.  Excruciating, to be more precise.  Think about it.  There is a very large constituency of baseball fans who have still been watching live action, including Yankee fans.  But you’re not.  All you get to do is watch those fans watch the action while your team is fishing for a new manager and first base coach, hoping it doesn’t have to also fish for a new general manager, and really hoping that the players can get it together before Spring Training.  It’s a depressing, empty, miserable existence for baseball fans with nothing to cheer for in October except another team’s demise, which we will obviously do with gusto for the Evil Empire.  But, man, is the whole thing painful.  A little less painful now that the Tigers have disposed of the Yankees.  But still painful.

Especially since Tito will be a guest analyst for the ALCS on Fox.  Speaking of which, he won’t be going to the Other Sox after all; they hired Robin Ventura, so we’re the only managerless team at the moment.

Adrian Gonzalez has received a very well-deserved nomination for the Hank Aaron Award.

The Buckner ball is up for auction.  Seth Swirsky, who bought the ball from Charlie Sheen, is selling it.  The bidding starts at one million dollars.  At the time, the umpire marked the ball for authentication purposes.  The ball needs to go.

In other news, the Pats appropriately crushed the Raiders, 31-19.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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There are a couple of reasons why our loss yesterday technically isn’t the end of the world.  The first is that we won the first game, so we’re no better off than we were heading into the series, which is good considering it could be worse. The second is that the Rays also lost, so there’s that.

Either way, we still lost to the Evil Empire in the Bronx when we needed to win.  And I loathed that experience just as much as I enjoyed winning on Friday.

Lackey was not helpful.  His scouting report always says he’s a big-game pitcher, and Tito always says that on a day he starts we’ll still be in the game in the seventh inning because of him.  Technically we were because we were only down by three, but in my book a big-game pitcher and one who keeps you in the game in the seventh inning when you’re the Red Sox and playing the Yankees in the Bronx will either have you with a lead, a tie, or a one-run deficit if that’s true.  We had each of those over the course of the game and Lackey couldn’t hold on to any of them.

He gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings.  He walked three, struck out seven, and took the loss.  He threw 116 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  He started the second by giving up a walk and eventually the lead by allowing the bottom half of the order to tie it.  He allowed four consecutive two-out hits in the fifth that broke the tie for good, throwing a total of thirty-one pitches in the inning.  And may I say that Drew was not helpful either; Cano’s bloop hit fell right in front of him, and I can only assume the sun prevented him from seeing it properly because there’s otherwise no excuse for why he didn’t catch that ball.  There was also the throwing error by V-Mart in the sixth that was aimed for Scutaro to prevent the steal of second, but it bounced off Scutaro’s glove and ended up in the outfield, allowing the lead runner to advance to third and eventually to home plate.

In the beginning of the game, Lackey threw his fastball more often, but eventually he abandoned that plan because his fastball wasn’t that great.  His curveball was his stellar pitch, followed by his changeup and slider.  Not coincidentally, his next-most abundant pitch, his cutter, was mediocre.  He mixed his pitches well and put good movement on them.

But he let the game slip through his fingers.  When we play the Yankees, everything has to be working: run prevention as well as run production.  Yesterday, we basically had neither.

The game began with such promise.  We were the first to get on the board when V-Mart hit a solo shot in the second to left, right after FOX’s commentators finished expounding on the fact that V-Mart has lit up lefties this season.  The count was 3-1, so he was sitting on an inside fastball, and that’s exactly what he got.  It was V-Mart’s first homer in sixty-seven at-bats and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Then Beltre extended his hitting streak to thirteen games with a double and scored Lowell’s subsequent double.

And that was it for us for the rest of the game.  We lost it, 2-5.  Sabathia’s velocity was noticeably low, but of course the problem is that when that happens to him, he just switches to finesse.  If we won, we could have been four games out of first and three and a half out of the Wild Card.  But we didn’t.  We lost.

And I’ll tell you another thing.  Jerry Layne’s strike zone was way too wide.  Papi showed a lot of composure out there, because some of those supposed strikes were miles off the plate.  And that bothers me.  An umpire is supposed to be invisible, and the action of the game is supposed to unfold in front of him.  Jerry Layne was very visible, and instead the action was unfolding around him.  That’s not good.  If he wants to impact the action that much, he should put on a uniform and play, in which case I doubt he’d be very happy with his own strike zone.

I should mention that Delcarmen and Doubront were both excellent in relief.  I should also mention that we did in fact acquire Delgado.  As predicted, we signed him to minor league deal, which he can waive if we don’t put him on the Major League roster by September 1.  And last but not least, Ellsbury wasn’t in the lineup today because it was a scheduled day off against a lefty, not because his diving catch on Friday injured him again.  Kalish sat for the same reason.

But like I said, it could be so much worse, so we should at least be thankful we won the first game, but it just feels like a waste.  The day was scripted for a win.  The Rays lost, we won the night before, we had a big-game pitcher on the mound who would take us into the seventh inning, V-Mart hits a home run, Lowell bats one in, and then it just stopped.  I can’t adequately express my frustration.  I mean, it seriously just stopped.  Sabathia locked, Lackey unlocked, and that was the end of it.

We’re throwing Beckett against Burnett tonight.  We need to get this one.

AP Photo

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Well, this is a familiar predicament in which we find ourselves, isn’t it? Let’s hope it ends the way it’s been known to end in the recent past.  One more game.  Just one more game.  Lester at Garza.  This, without a doubt, is the most important game of the season.

Josh Beckett redeemed himself as best he could last night.  By traditional Beckett standards, his shift was shabby at best, but after seeing him at his worst we’ll take what we can get.  He pitched five innings, allowed four hits and two runs, walked one, and fanned three.  The two runs were solo homers, and that was it for the Rays’ offense.  Okajima pitched two perfect innings, and he’s been golden this October.  Masterson held the fort in the eighth, and Papelbon did his thing in the ninth.  Lights out, as usual.

As for the offense, it was just like old times.  Two RBIs for Youkilis, who hit a home run in the second to tie it; one for Ortiz, who finished the night two for four with a walk; and one for none other than el capitan, Jason Varitek, who hit a solo shot to put us ahead in the sixth.  I couldn’t believe it.  Deep down, he man’s still got it.  And even before that, in the fifth inning, he caught a Ray stealing second right before Bartlett hit it out of the park.  Tek, who doesn’t through as well as he used to at all, saved us a run.  I couldn’t believe it.  Coco Crisp had a monster night and was perfect at the plate from the leadoff spot, even if he was picked off at first.  And JD Drew went two for four with a walk.  He’s absolutely on fire.  He’s on another level in October.  It’s fantastic.  Forget about the fact that he had a good year this year.  Forget about the fact that he was as good as any elite slugger in the league in June.  Forget about the fact that he just keeps getting better.  The quality of his play in October alone makes him worth every penny of his five-year deal.

In other news, the broadcast of the game last night was delayed by a substantial block of time.  I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that that never would’ve happened if Fox were broadcasting the ALCS.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are not amused.  Add this to the list of reasons why I’m not a fan of fall ball on TBS.

So, like I said, it’s Lester at Garza.  What more can I say? Let’s get ‘er done and rock it out!

AP Photo

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Once the rain delay was over, it was a great game.  And let’s give a round of applause to the grounds crew, who worked so hard and so well last night.  We weren’t even supposed to start the game last night.  Games were getting rained out left and right across the eastern seaboard, but because of the double-header today we had nowhere to put it.  And it was clearly an affirmation of our status as the best fans in the world.  Nobody left.  It was coming down like nobody’s business and nobody left the ballpark.  There was even a fan wrapped in what looked like toilet paper to keep dry.

As it turns out, this game was just what we needed.  Exactly what we needed.  We’ve got a tough day ahead today, and yesterday gives us momentum and a fully rested bullpen.  It’s funny; when you have a good season somehow these things just work out.  The baseball gods give you a chance to jump out ahead.  Of course taking advantage of that is another story, but we’ve been doing that lately.  We’re chipping away at Tampa Bay’s lead.  The division is by no means locked up.

Toronto came into last night’s game first in the league in ERA.  Against Toronto this season, we were 4-7 with a .217 average.  We came into last night’s game first in the Major Leagues in batting average at .283.  We won, 7-0.  We out-hit them, 8-3.  And we made no errors, as opposed to their two.

Tim Wakefield was one of the stars of the show.  He pitched eight (count ‘em: eight) shutout innings and held the Blue Jays to just three hits.  He walked none and struck out four.  And for once he received good run support.  He improves to 9-10 with a 3.92 ERA.  I think it’s safe to say that this was one of his best starts all season.  And this came after that disaster of an outing in Texas, his shortest since the ’90s.  And that was just sad, because it was his 500th start, but it certainly wasn’t something he’ll want to remember.  It’s just good to see him bounce back so quickly and effectively.  And it really gave the bullpen an extra day of rest, which is a godsend considering we’ve got two games today.  So for all of these reasons, Wake will be pitching for us for a long, long time.  And that’s definitely a good thing.  He’s also a really nice guy.  Vernon Wells, who doesn’t have a home run against Wake, said something funny to him and Wake thanked him and smiled.  That’s pretty unusual for an opposing player.

Manny Delcarmen pitched the ninth and allowed nothing, lowering his ERA to 3.59.  He’s allowed only four hits in his last fifteen innings, or twelve games.  How about that? Whatever he did to adjust himself from his earlier inconsistency has worked like a charm.

Two RBIs for Lowrie, two for Ortiz, and three for Cash.  Lowrie went two for two with a walk, scored twice, and continues to be an RBI machine.  His swing, from both sides of the plate, is just very conducive to getting that runner home.  He’s now six for his last seven, and how about that lengthy at-bat in the eighth? That’s what we need to do, and that’s what we’re good at: being patient at the plate and exhausting the opposing staff.  Ortiz came through with a clutch double.  And as for Cash, he came into last night’s game without an RBI in his last eighteen games.  In the eighth inning he hit a monstrous three-run home run, his fourteenth of the season.  Bay was held hitless but scored the game’s first two runs, and he made a stellar leaping catch on the warning track in the third inning, right in front of the Tampa Bay-New York entry in the scoreboard.  And Coco extended his hitting streak to twelve games.

In other news, Sean Casey is getting close to returning, but Drew could take a little longer.  After his back acted up again, he received another injection, so he’ll need a little more time.  But he’s anxious to get back out there and says he hasn’t thought for a second that he’d shut it down for the season.  I think it’s safe to say his days of long stints on the DL are over.  And it’s good he wants to get back in there, because this time last year his production was off the charts: .393 with fifteen doubles, four home runs, and fifteen RBIs in the last eighteen games of the season.  But sadly that’s not the only thing keeping him away from right field.  He learned yesterday that unfortunately his grandmother passed away.  So I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I offer condolences to the Drew family.  He’ll rejoin the team in Tampa Bay.

Yesterday’s contest was Don Orsillo’s 1000th game.  There was a cake and everything, and Meryl Masterson, Justin Masterson’s wife, even baked him cookies.  Last October, he worked the Rockies-Phillies NLDS, and this year he’ll be working the ALCS.  He’s also signed a new contract with NESN that has him broadcasting the Sox through 2012.  So congratulations, Don! Here’s to 1000 more.

Speaking of this year’s postseason, TBS has the rights to the four ALDS series and the ALCS.  Personally I don’t think that’s so great.  I mean I thought the commentary was a little lacking.  When you’re talking about the ALDS, it’s the first round so it’s not so bad.  But I’d much prefer watching the ALCS on Fox.  TBS wanted to bring in Curt Schilling for one of the ALDS series that didn’t involve us, but the authorities vetoed that, and besides Schilling said he wasn’t interested.

So here’s where we stand.  We’re two games behind the Rays and six games ahead of the Twins for the Wild Card.  We’ve been doing well with good pitching; Toronto and Tampa Bay have lately been No. 1 and 2 in the league in pitching.  And we’re pitching well ourselves.  We’ve got everything going in our direction, so this stretch should be fun.

AP Photo

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