Congratulations, Tampa Bay Rays

Congratulations, Tampa Bay Rays.

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been the whipping boys of the AL East.  When my team (the Boston Red Sox) went in to play you, I felt a mixture of feelings – we want to sweep, because the Yankees are sweeping you and we want to keep up with them; but to make what had to be a miserable feeling for you even worse had me pitying you.

You did the best thing possible to remedy this; you got good, and you believed in yourselves.  Such a turnaround, though!  It is not an accident that you are where you are now.  You got there through your own talent, determination, and effort.

World Series prediction:  Rays in 5.



A lot of people are comparing the Red Sox comeback in Game 5 of this year’s ALCS with their turnaround of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, to whom they were down 3 games to 0, having been blown out in Game 3 allowing 19 runs.  There are a lot of similarities.

The late ray of hope

2004:  Kevin Millar gets a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 9th of Game 4 against the Yankees, needing one run to tie with Mariano Rivera, the best closer in playoff history, on the mound.  Dave Roberts, the league’s best base stealer, is put in to run for him.

2008:  With two on and two out in the 7th, the Red Sox down 7-0 and looking like they’ll be blown out for the third game in a row and lose the ALCS, Dustin Pedroia knocks in a run with an opposite-field single, and the Red Sox have two on with Big Papi coming up.

Momentum shift

2004:  Even though the pitcher, the catcher, and everybody else knew he was going to try to steal, Dave Roberts successfully steals second base, and Fenway Park goes nuts.

2008:  Even though he’d been slumping horribly in the playoffs, Big Papi returns to form, hitting a good inside pitch into the right field stands, cutting the lead to 7-4, and Fenway Park goes nuts.

These plays were the pivot points.  There was still work to do, but the mentality of the fans changed after this one from one of hope but fear to one of expectation of good things to come.

A sense of destiny

2004:  Bill Mueller singles in Dave Roberts, tying the game in the ninth against the great Mariano Rivera.

2008:  Coco Crisp wins a 10-pitch battle to single in the tying run in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game 7-7, as he also runs into the final out of the inning.

After these plays, Red Sox fans got the feeling that they were destined to win this game, and probably more after.

Going home happy, with the ball rolling

2004:  Big Papi hits a walkoff home run in extra innings, and the Red Sox win the game, and the next one, and the next one, and with a big head of steam built, blow out the Yankees 10-3 in the final Game 7.

2008:  J.D. Drew knocks a ground-rule double over the Rays’ right fielder’s head, knocking in Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, and the Red Sox win the game, and the next one, and … ???

Look for a blowout in Game 7 tonight.  Red Sox by at least 6.

The Red Sox will win big

In the 2004 and 2007 deciding games of the ALCS, the Red Sox, having changed the momentum of their series a few games before, won big.  In 2004 against the Yankees, after winning several close games, they won Game 7 10-3.  In 2007, they won Game 7 against the Indians 11-2.

I expect the Red Sox will win tonight by at least 6 runs, the momentum still swinging in their direction.

The World Series was played last night

Last night’s game decided the World Series winner.  Verdict:  Red Sox.

Never mind that it wasn’t an actual World Series game.  Never mind that it didn’t technically even decide the AL Championship Series, as it left both teams tied 3-3 and forced a Game 7.

We’re seeing the exact same pattern as in 2004 and 2007, the last two times the Red Sox won the World Series.  It’s a formula for success in the World Series that the Red Sox should consider patenting.

Step 1:  Win the Division Series quickly.  (The Red Sox won in 3 games in 2004 and 2007, and 4 games this year.)

Step 2:  Fall behind in the League Championship Series, to the point at which any sane person would believe you’re done for.  (The Red Sox fell behind 3 games to 0 in 2004, and were losing Game 4 in the 9th as Mariano Rivera took the mound – completely hopeless – yet they came back and won every game after that.  They fell behind 3 games to 1 last year and came back.)

Step 3:  Start winning, and let your momentum and the emotional high carry you to a 7-game League Championship, while your World Series opponents-in-waiting wait without any real games to play.

Step 4:  Use your now razor-sharpened skills to sweep World Series over an opponent whose skills have dulled from lack of competition while they waited.

We’re right in the middle of Step 3, and the Red Sox are now carrying a lot of momentum.  Game 5, by the 7th inning, was a most unlikely win.  In Game 6, the Rays had to be considered the favorite, with Josh Beckett being a best a big question mark.  But the Sox came through, their momentum keeps rolling forward, and with Jon Lester on the mound wanting to make up for a bad performance in Game 3, they have to consider themselves the favorites now.  They have to like their chances.

Game 6 was the last game in question.  Now past that hurdle, too much of the pattern has repeated itself for the Red Sox not to sweep the rest of the way.  Had the Rays won, I have to take the Rays over the Phillies.  Either way, last night’s winner becomes the World Series winner.

The World Series was played last night, and the Phillies weren’t in the game.  Sorry, Phillies.

2008 Red Sox vs. 2001 Red Sox?

It is very interesting to be considering the possibility of a Los Angeles Dodgers – Boston Red Sox World Series.  I have been wondering something, and today I found out it is true:

The Los Angeles Dodgers right now look more like the 2001 Boston Red Sox than the Boston Red Sox do.

Check out the rosters, and you’ll see that while the current Dodgers have 3 players from the 2001 Red Sox (Derek Lowe, Nomar Garciaparra, and Manny Ramirez), the current Red Sox have only 2 (Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield).

What’s extra interesting is that these three Dodgers were 3 of the superstars on that Red Sox team – the kind of guys that you’d see on the cover of the program guide.

What’ll happen if these Dodgers show up in Fenway Park for Game 3 of the World Series?  I expect we’ll hear applause for Garciaparra, and if there’s an appropriate moment, for Lowe; but expect to hear Manny booed as loudly as ever we’ve heard a player booed in Boston.

As for who wins, I hope the Red Sox would demolish the Dodgers if the matchup comes to pass.  Vindication that would be!  And validation for the decision to ditch Manny.

The one thing to make me worry is that Joe Torre would be in the opposing dugout.  If there’s one man who could best coach a National League team on How To Beat The Boston Red Sox, I’m thinking Joe Torre’s gotta be that guy.

But we’re not there yet.  We must wait and watch …

(By the way, though I’d root for a Sox sweep of the Dodgers in the World Series this year, I’d be hoping for a 7 game Sox-Rays ALCS.  The Rays have been fun to watch this year, and I’d like to see them get something for all the effort they’ve made.)

Jacoby Ellsbury, Mr. September

This year, until recently, Red Sox fans have been a bit let down by the performance of Jacoby Ellsbury, who gave the Red Sox such a huge boost in September and October of last year.  He started the year pretty well, but didn’t produce offensively through the middle of the season with anywhere near what we knew to be his potential.

September has been a different story this year.  He finished out the month of September with an 18-game hitting streak.  It was his best month overall of the year.  He hit .340 in September – and that’s his only month hitting above .300 this year.  His 20 runs are about equal to his totals in each of the first two months of this year.

And all of this sounds strangely familar.

Why?  Last year, as a late-season callup, Jacoby had an outstanding September as well, actually performing better at the major league level than he had been to that point in the year in the minors.  He carried that consistently high level of performance through October, and the World Series, right up to the final victorious game.  It seemed that in every game, he did something to help the team win.

So we seem to have a pattern emerging here.  It’s quite a common thing for players to have their “time of year”.  Johan Santana, for example, though good before the All-Star break, each year is close to unbeatable in the second half of the season.  So I don’t think it’s a stretch, based on just the last two seasons of performance, to give Jacoby Ellsbury the moniker “Mr. September”.

Though, as a Red Sox fan, I can hope that he can start to find that hot streak a little earlier in the season, and still keep it through October.  🙂