Tonight's match up was billed by many as the most important game of the season, one that would shape the AL East landscape as the season rounds out. Well, it may have indeed been exactly that, but it was sure over quickly. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st inning off a David Ortiz "no doubt about it" tater to right center, from there however, it was all down hill.
Tim Wakefield, who until recently had a flawless 9-0 record at the Trop, got lit up by a Rays lineup that was aggressive from the plate to the base paths tonight. Wake gave up three taters and only lasted 2 1/3rd innings, allowing 6 runs on 6 hits. Deveran Hansack came in to try to limit the damage long enough to keep the Sox in the game.....he managed to get one out.....one. The 30 year old (still can't believe he's "30") gave up two runs and the Red Sox were effectively out of the game for good after three innings. Luckily for the Sox, with the off day tomorrow, they had the luxury of being able to empty the bullpen without cause for concern. You know it's bad when the camera turns to the bullpen pitcher warming up and you don't have a clue who it is (sorry Chris Smith...I had no idea). The Ray's bullpen however?...allowed only one hit.....one. The Red Sox were able to win a total of one game out of nine in Tampa this season....one.
Going into the game, after looking at the lineup, I knew the Sox were in for trouble if Wakefield couldn't hold the Rays to 4 runs or less. Unfortunately I was right. Tonight's lineup, without Lowell, Drew, and Bay, simply wasn't deep enough to put together the big inning the Red Sox needed to get back into the game. The Rays made a statement early and often tonight, and the Red Sox could not respond (ITM note: their 8 and 9 hole hitters went back to back for god sake!). Not only could Boston not respond, but they helped the Rays by throwing the ball around the infield like my West Wareham little league team did so well back in 94'. I blame Tim Murphy's wrap-up post from last night where he noted the Sox were now the best fielding team in the league....figures.
The Sox are now 2 games back in the East on paper, but are essentially 3 games back since the Rays have the tiebreaker advantage. So with the biggest game of the season behind them, and the Rays now in charge of the AL East, the Red Sox need to worry about getting themselves ready and healthy for the playoffs. If that means they somehow manage to take the division, great, if not, that's fine with me too...so long as the Sox are in a better position to be successful in October than we are right now.
ITM game notes:
-It was a "sell out" for the Rays tonight, 36,048 strong. The 6th of the year. How can they count it as a sell out when they had 8,000 seats covered by tarps in the outfield??
-I don't want to get all fired up about it, but Mike Lowell went to see a specialist today for the torn Labrum in his hip.....someone should tell JD Drew to go see a specialist for the "I'm a big sally" injury he's currently suffering from.
-Performances like this make me wonder if we'll see Wakefield on the playoff roster...it may come down to him or Paul Byrd. Since it's Tito managing the team, my money is on Wake making it.
-Anyone else notice that Remy simply can not get Ruggiano's name right? Remdawg, you played with enough Italian-American players in your time that you should have this nailed.
-The Red Sox 2009 schedule is out....April 6th opener at Fenway...bring your winter hats.
-Lastly, if you didn't hear the "Curt in the car" call into WEEI this afternoon to talk/bash Manny, it's well worth the listen. Great stuff with Lou and Dauber on the show as well.