There are plenty of Yankee fans out there who wanted to face the Red Sox in the ALCS this year and heading into the playoffs, it looked like there was a pretty good chance they would get their wish. It was a season that had the earmarks of a possible rematch with a season series that was constantly lopsided in one direction or the other but ultimately even. It was the first time since 2007 that both teams had made the postseason. The Yanks figured to take care of the Twins and the Sox looked to be a decent bet to knock off the Angels. And it just seemed like it was due to happen. 2004 was a long time ago, you know?
I'm not one of those fans who wanted to see the Sox. Sure, there would have been a massive dose of satisfaction resulting from an ALCS victory over them, but there would have been the same amount of agony on the line stemming from a loss. Plenty of bragging rights inherently tied to them not making it out of the first round, also. I'll take the sure thing, thanks.
Even when the Angels took a 2-0 series lead, I didn't dismiss the Sox' chances. They are simply a different team at home offensively and they'd won too many elimination games in previous years to count them out. Scott Kazmir had the most wins among active pitchers as a visiting player at Fenway but the Boston bats hung 5 runs on him by the end of the 4th inning. The Sox sat atop a 5-1 lead but since the Giants were so thoroughly destroying the Raiders over on CBS, I kept flipping back to the to TBS to check on the game and watched the Angels systematically chip away.
Juan Rivera added an RBI off of Daniel Bard in the 6th. Then Billy Wagner came in, allowed a flukey ground rule double to Bobby Abreu off of ow-ah boy Youk, walked Vlad Guerrero and after Kendry Morales moved the runners over, left men on 2nd and 3rd with two outs for Jonathan Papelbon.
Although our second least-favorite Red Sock had a lower ERA this year than last, he walked three times more batters than in 2008 leading to more baserunners and more nail-biting saves. He had lost much of his luster among Sox fans and there were whispers that the Sox were thinking of getting rid of him. Those whispers just got considerably louder.
With his first pitch of the game, Papelbon surrendered a single to Juan Rivera, cutting the Sox lead to 5-4. However, a pickoff of pinch runner Reggie Willits temporarily quelled the rally.
The Sox were able to tack on another run in the bottom of the 8th via a Mike Lowell single, but that wouldn't prove to be enough of a cushion.
Papelbon got two quick outs and with the Sox leading by two, they were microscopically close to getting back in the series. But the Angels clawed back with a single by Eric Aybar, a walk to Chone Figgins and a double by Bobby Abreu to cut the lead to 1 run. The Sox intentionally walked Torii Hunter but Vlad Guererro made them pay with a go-ahead two RBI single. Papelbon, a former hero among Red Sox Nation was booed off the mound.
The Sox went down in order in the bottom of the 9th and despite some wishful thinking by TBS's scoreboard guy, their season was over.
As my buddy Jim said afterwards, "You could hear a tear drop on Landsdowne". There was a truly disappointing lack of crowd shots after the loss, but I did manage to get this one in the bottom of the ninth.
Youk looks pretty crushed. And who's the mysterious lady???
Don't cry, Jason Bay. At least you're not a Pirate anymore.
Peace out, Papi. Don't worry, it's not your fault.
/checks series stats
//sees line of .083/.083/.083 with no RBIs
I take that back. Have a nice winter, though!