Once again, the Red Sox' Achilles Heel struck on Thursday.
The Sox were poised for a sweep in Toronto, after a 10-1 thrashing of the Jays on Wednesday. John Lackey pitched eight solid innings, allowing two runs. He had some solid support, with Jed Lowrie and David Ortiz going deep. The five runs should have been enough. (They did leave runners in scoring position early, but a 5-2 lead in the ninth should be plenty.)
Lackey allowed a home run to Jose Bautista to open the ninth, and that was it for him. But in comes Jonathan Papelbon, who had absolutely nothing. Line drive double and sharp single on his first two pitches made it 5-4. I knew the bell was tolling.
Another line drive single and it was first and third, no outs. After a strikeout, Papelbon officially blew the save when he gave up a line drive double down the left field line to Edwin Encarnacion, and it was 5-5. Sixth blown save of 2010 for Papelbon, matching his career high (and the third Lackey victory he's blown, too). Everything hit off Papelbon were liners (as you may have noticed by my description). No cheap hits at all. It was also the first time he was pulled in the middle of an inning that was still tied.
Daniel Bard, the Red Sox' 2011 closer (I'll bet money on it right now) came in with the bases loaded and gave up a sacrifice fly by Fred Lewis to center, giving Toronto an inexcusable 6-5 win. They had the Jays by the throat, but Papelbon, who continues to be a shadow of the closer he once was, let them off the mat.
You may have also noticed I didn't say anything about Bard becoming the closer now. That's because Terry Francona won't do that in the middle of a pennant race. Nor should he.
The Red Sox took 2 of 3 in Toronto, but it feels like a series loss.
Today you saw the reason why the Red Sox won't make it to the postseason. The shitty bullpen struck again. You just can't give up games like this and expect to be playing into deep October.
Papelbon will be on another team next season. Just wait and see.