Thursday, September 18, 2008

Goodbye East, Hello Angels

The AL East was probably decided last night at the Tropicana Dome as Tim Wakefield got banged around by the first-place Rays and the Red Sox crashed to a 10-3 loss.

I thought this guy was suppose to own the Rays, especially in the dome at St. Pete?

I guess that was the old, bad Rays.

David Ortiz gave the Red Sox a fast 2-0 lead with a first-inning homer. But Wakefield gave that back and more, and it was concluded by Willy Aybar's two-run homer. It got worse in the second, as he gave up homers to Gabe Gross and Fernando Perez. (Who?) Not exactly the heart of the Rays lineup was in the middle of the damage.

Wakefield gave up a leadoff double in the third and that was it for him for the night. Terry Francona managed it like a playoff game, as he began bringing in relievers to halt the damage. It reached its nadir when Javier Lopez booted an easy grounder back to the mound, which ended up costing the Red Sox two runs. It was 8-2 by then, and the game was basically over. A series that started out so promising with a 13-5 wipeout of the Rays ended with two losses where the offense basically disappeared. In the six head-to-head matchups with the Rays over the past 9 days, the Red Sox could win just two. And may have cost them a first round playoff advantage.

You now have to wonder if Wakefield or Paul Byrd will get the nod as the fourth starter in the postseason playoffs. Wake has been wildly erratic this month so far. Byrd has pitched well since joining the Sox in August, giving them some valuable innings with pitchers out. He's had some shaky outings, but Wakefield needs to finish the season better than what he showed last night.

The only good thing that came out of last night's loss was the hitting of Ortiz. Papi slammed a mammoth shot that hit the scoreboard beyond the rightfield bleachers for his second homer of the night and his third of the series. He appears to be hitting his stride at just the right time as the regular season winds down.

Minnesota also lost again to the Indians in Cleveland so the Red Sox magic number for the playoffs is down to 4. Tampa Bay can clinch their first playoff berth ever with two wins in the four-game series with the Twins this weekend. The Rays now also own the AL East tie-breaker, having won the season series from the Sox, 10-8. The Red Sox will have to pass them and make up three games in the final ten to win the division. They squandered a golden opportunity last night, and a first-round series against the LA Angels looks very much like a real possibility.

And like the Rays in the dome with Wakefield, the Red Sox have historically owned the Angels. But also like Wake and the Rays, not this year, as the Angels won 8 of the 9 meetings. It won't be easy.

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