Pick a term of your choice to describe last night's game in Toronto.
Excruciating. Infuriating. Nauseating. Unacceptable.
Anyone of them will do.
This latest godawful Red Sox loss can once again be laid at the feet of one Terry Francona. Now listen, I am NO Tito basher. I happen to like Francona, as I think he's the best Red Sox manager since Dick Williams. I think he knows how to handle players, and especially the media, which in Boston is no easy thing. He also knows how to handle a bullpen. But twice, TWICE, in the last five days, he has cost the Red Sox a ballgame with his terrible mishandling of the bullpen. And both times in the eighth inning.
I agreed with him bringing in Eric Gagne last night. They got him to be a big time setup man and sometime closer. With Hideki Okajima's struggles, it was time to move Gagne back to eighth, as he had pitched well recently. He got the first two outs relatively easy, but then the roof fell in. AGAIN.
A walk. A single. Another walk. Another walk to force in a run. A double to drive in two (and a man gunned down at home to finally end the disaster).
And where is manager Francona? Sitting on the bench with his head up his ass hoping and praying Gagne wouldn't fail.
But he did. AGAIN. And once again, no one was backing up a reliever while the game was being lost, just like Friday night. Jonathan Papelbon was shown while the carnage was unfolding holding a baseball in the pen, and he wasn't warming up. Hey, if Gagne had pitched a clean inning, who was coming in to the ninth, Santa Claus? No, Papelbon. So why wasn't he backing up Gagne? He last pitched during Friday's travesty, so there was no reason not to use him in the eighth to save this game. None at all.
Finally, when Gagne walked in the tying run, Bryan Corey (Bryan Corey?) was seen warming up in a hurry. But it was too late, as Gagne gave away yet another game, this time a two-run double to Russ Adams. Gagne threw 32 pitches, only 13 for strikes. Totally absymal.
It was another horrible display of managing by Francona. He let Gagne give another away. There should have been SOMEONE throwing in the pen when Gagne walked the second hitter to load up the bases. He was clearly rattled and couldn't find the plate. I'm anxious to read his excuses in the Boston papers why he let Gagne hand the Blue Jays a victory.
And now I can draw only one conclusion about Gagne, and I rarely say this about a Red Sox player: he's a choker. Have you noticed that he's been doing better in those situations that Francona brings him into, like those ninth innings when the Sox are down, but with the game on the line, he folds like a cheap suit? If he's not hurt, then he's one big choke artist. The July 31 trade from Texas has proven to be one of the worst moves the Sox have made in recent memory, as Gagne is a complete and total failure in Boston.
More and more, I believe the Sox should leave Gagne off the postseason roster. Right now I'd rather have Kyle Snyder on the roster than Gagne. He simply cannot be trusted with a lead late in a game. He's either a garbage time pitcher, or completely useless. And if he were to have a problem with that move, tell him to take a hike and find other employment in 2008. (He's blowing millions with his tank jobs over the past couple of months. Good luck finding big money anywhere.) I simply don't want to see this jackass with a ball in his hand in a clutch situation ever again this season. The Sox simply cannot take the chance with him.
While Gagne and Francona are mostly to blame for the latest travesty, the Red Sox offense is also to blame as well. They left plenty of runners on base last night, including men in scoring position three times. Once again, squandered opportunities come home to haunt the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz goes in the series finale on Wednesday night. The kid will try to save their bacon and get a little dignity back. But this team has no one to blame but themselves if they let this division lead go flying out the window. They can't keep giving games away like they did last night. Granted the "real" magic number for the Red Sox is four (over Detroit, not New York), as that will put them into the playoffs this season for sure. Some feel that just getting the Wild Card is fine, but there is a psychological edge to getting the division crown. Plus, you want some momentum to carry you into October. Stumbling in is no good omen.
So no more excuses. No more stupid, idiotic decisions costing the team games.
Time to prove to everyone that you guys belong in the playoffs. Ten games left. Get Manny Ramirez back in the lineup. Time to get off your dead asses, score runs, pitch well and win some games.
Is that too much to ask?