September 4, 2004

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Rangers 8, Red Sox 6. Unlike Nigel Tufnel's amp, the Red Sox winning streak doesn't go to 11. Texas starter Chris "Cy" Young shut down the Sox for nearly six innings and a sleepy Terry Francona left Tim Wakefield in the game too long. Although the Red Sox stormed back against the Texas pen with 5 runs in the 7th (a Bellhorn grand slam and an Ortiz solo blast), they were in too deep of a hole to begin with.

Good news: Sidney Ponson threw a 2-hit, complete game shutout against the Yankees. The Orioles ripped Mariano Rivera for 4 runs in the 9th inning and won 7-0. ... The big story from this afternoon was not that Boston failed to take advantage of another Yankees loss, but that the Yankees did not capitalize on a rare Red Sox loss. The East margin remains at 2½.

One again Wakefield was average. After a quick, 8-pitch first inning, the first six Rangers reached base in the 2nd (single, single, HBP, single, FC, single) and Texas led 3-0. In the 4th, Rod Barajas hit a 2-run homer. Wakefield calmed down after that, retiring 7 of the next 8 batters and although he had thrown only 87 pitches through 6 innings, he had not been sharp.

You could make the case that Wakefield should not have begun the 7th inning. Or if he did, Tito should have had the bullpen up and ready. Texas led 5-1 at that point and Boston could not afford to fall any further behind.

Barajas began the inning with a single, then Eric Young walked on 5 pitches. No movement from Francona. Michael Young took a ball and then blasted a three-run home run to left. Texas 8-1. Now Francona came out to make the move. ... Wakefield certainly deserves blame for allowing the many base runners and runs, but as manager, Francona must keep the game as close as possible, to give his hitters as good a chance to rally as possible. He failed to do that today.

Mop-up man Terry Adams got out of the inning (although he did make an error). With one out in the bottom half, Jeff Nelson (who had finished up the 6th) walked Mirabelli. With the crowd howling at him, he then walked Mientkiewicz and he walked Roberts. Ron Mahay took over and allowed a grand slam to Mark Bellhorn. It was 8-5. After Manny grounded out, Ortiz clubbed his 34th home run of the year -- and Boston was within two runs with two innings of hitting left to go.

I was surprised to see Adams pitching in the 8th. This was not a mop-up situation anymore. Brian Jordan singled to start the inning. Where was Tito? Kevin Mench singled. Where was Tito? Laynce Nix popped up a bunt for the first out. Where was Tito? ... Ah, here he comes. Mendoza retired the next two batters to end the threat.

Doug Brocail retired Boston in order in the 8th (Cabrera foul pop, Mueller grounder deflected from pitcher to 2B, and Mirabelli caught looking). Francisco Cordero struck out Mientkiewicz to start the 9th. I expected Varitek would bat for Roberts, but Francona did not make the switch. Roberts ended up lining a single into center. Bellhorn was now the tying run, but on a 3-2 pitch, he grounded to second base, where Soriano began a double play that ended the game.

Judging from the game thread, Soriano did not tag Roberts -- reminding many of Tim Tschida's 1999 ALCS call involving Knoblauch/Offerman -- but apparently Roberts was called out for leaving the baseline.

In this crucial 9-game stretch against Anaheim, Texas and Oakland, the Red Sox are now 4-1 -- which is pretty damn good. I only wish that Francona would understand that this offense can come back from big deficits and he shouldn't throw in the towel quite so early (or often).

Back in the early innings when it was 3-1 (and even 5-1), I felt the game was far from over. That feeling from 2003 -- that every game is winnable -- has finally returned. This game did nothing to dampen it.

Tomorrow: Schilling vs. Ryan Drese.

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