Well, so much for my postseason prediction that the Red Sox would manhandle the Angels. The Red Sox strengths and Angels weaknesses should have matched up entirely in Boston’s favor. But ultimately it was necessary for several key Sox to perform up to expectations for it to work.
David Ortiz’s oh-fer and Papelbon’s blown save combined to sink the Sox.
Ortiz had a terrific last two months of the season, but without Manny in the lineup hitting behind him, there was no reason for the Angels to give him anything good to hit. For a while it looked like it might be a wash, given that Vlad Guerrero was also coming up empty in the ALDS, as when he struck out with the bases loaded in game 2. But Guerrero came through with the big hit when LAA-la-land needed it most, after the intentional walk to Torii Hunter in the top of the ninth, bringing in the tying and go-ahead runs.
There were so many times this year that Papelbon seemed to walk a tightrope rather than just dominating in the ninth. Sometimes he needed 35 pitches to nail down that save. His walks were up. Early in the season the Sox put up a smokescreen, claiming Pap was working on new pitches, but as the season wore on, he continued to pitch in that style. The words “heart attack closer” were bandied about quite a lot here in Boston. Ultimately, the margin for error in the ninth inning of this game was too thin. He was one strike away from putting this game in the books as a W for the Sox, 0-2 on Erick Aybar, when Aybar singled.
Was he deflated when he then went 3-0 on Chone Figgins? He came back with two called strikes, then Figgins fouled one off, again one strike away from the win. And then came ball four.
So up came Bobby Abreu, a notoriously patient hitter, who took a ball, but then fouled off three straight fastballs, giving Pap his third opportunity to go one strike away… before doubling and bringing in a run. Then came the intentional walk to Hunter, and the Vladdy two-run single.
Not only did Papelbon blow the save and lose the game, his scoreless inning streak in the postseason is snapped as well. It’s going to be a long winter in the Papelbon household, I think.
It’s always sad when a great team has to go home early. The Sox and the Cardinals deserved to go deeper, but their opponents had other ideas.
The season is over, but it wasn’t without some great moments. Jacoby Ellsbury getting the franchise steals record, and stealing home against the Yankees, some great walk offs, but thinking about those bright moments right now is bittersweet now that they didn’t add up to more.
This did put a smile on my face, though. A tribute song to Joe Castiglione that they played for him on the broadcast:
See you next year, Red Sox.
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