Tuesday, July 20, 2004: last night was the worst Sox loss of the season. It was worse than the 13-inning epic at New York. It was worse than any of the blown leads, or no-hit good pitch games, or anything else. Bronson Arroyo threw perhaps the best game by a Sox pitcher this year – he went seven innings, struck out a dozen, including an eye-popping eleven in a row, and gave up three hits and one run. He was awesome after giving up a run early, and he gave us every opportunity to win that game. For most of the game the offense could not get a run across the plate even as the pride of U-Mass, Ron Villone, was letting guys on base at an epic rate. And the defense, though only on the hook for two errors, made a series of gaffes, blunders and, as the Brits might say, cockups, which made things tense.

And yet for all of that, in the eighth inning Varitek hit a bomb to right-center that gave us a 4-1 win and surely a win for Arroyo. As Lee Corso might say on College Gameday, “Not so fast, my friend.” In the bottom of the eighth a Mueller throwing error cost the Sox a run after Timlin came in to relieve. But no worries – Foulke was coming in to close it out.
The problem is, of late Foulke has not closed a whole hell of a lot of anything out. Indeed, Foulke has been giving up runs at an alarming rate from the one position in the rotation, closer, where runs are most deadly. Further, last night’s nonsense – ineffectual hitting, wretched defense, dumb baserunning, lack of intensity, and dumb bad luck – made it one of those games where fans had an impending sense of doom, a sense that was affirmed when Foulke gave up two solo shots, to catcher Miguel Olivo and to wily old Edgar Martinez, in the ninth. And just like that it was 4-4, Arroyo was not about to win, and what was an uneasy feeling across Red Sox nation was suddenly a collective knowledge that things were going to go very, very wrong.
This is not just idle speculation or artistic license either. Making this ever more nerve-wracking was the fact that I was at home (well, my colleague’s home – I’m still a man without an address) and my only way to follow the game was through MLB.com’s Gameday (Gameday is just a simulated version of the game in which you can follow the action sort-of live, but it can be frustrating and slow and it is simply not the ideal way to follow the game, especially when it is all going to hell. I cannot get the mlb radio to tune in at Jaime’s house) and the Sons of Sam Horn game logs, which usually provide as good a minute-by-minute sense of the pulse of Red Sox Nation as any other. The crowds at SoSH all had that feeing that things were just not right. Folks were pretty mad about the way the Sox were playing. I was exhausted, we had it and lost it after Tek’s home run, and it just was a mood with bad tidings attendant.
Foulke somehow managed to get through the 1oth, but when we entered the 11th we still had not scored (natch) and Curtis Leskanic was on the mound. Before long he loaded the bases. Bret Boone came up. It’s too easy to make the parallels between the Boone brothers. But in any case, with the bases loaded, he jacked one out, Game over. What was a 4-1 Arroyo masterpiece was an 8-4 loss in the most wrenching of fashions. Meanwhile all of us who go the distance for the Sox had stayed up very late for a west coast game that went extras. I had followed it by the Gameday and SoSH Game thread. It was excruciating. Worst loss of the year. My mood this morning was foul, and that lasted throughout the day.
I’d love to tell you that as I write this I am feeling much better, as the Sox broke this afternoon’s game open with an 8 run fourth. It is now 8-3, and Lowe had a solid appearance, giving up two runs. Manny and Ortiz have hit bombs with most of the guys contributing. But last night the Yankees lost, the Angels lost, the A’s lost. We could have made up ground, gotten within 6 of the yanks, and shaken off this road funk we’ve been on. Instead we are forced to be happy with another split against another West Coast team. And of course it is 8-4 now with the Mariners making a bit of a run.
This team is just not that good right now. They are playing bad baseball. I suspect that will change because I am a fan and I thus have no choice. And maybe this is really the year and this is just the test of faith. If so, they are doing a pretty good job of sending boils and plagues of locusts our way. Hopefully we win this one.

UPDATE: My God. It is heading into the ninth inning, and as if we have been cursed to suffer the death of a thousand cuts, it is suddenly 9-7. This really is excruciating. The SoSH game threat is also full of angst. The thing is, that is indicative of how this team has been since April. When things are going well, these sorts of games are exciting because you think some how, some way, they’ll find a way to win – like started happening by this time last year. Instead this year, when the other team starts chipping away, you get that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, like when you go flying over a small hill in a big old car. Except that feels cool. This feels miserable, like the second after your girlfriend says, “We need to talk.”
Perhaps the most daunting thing is that even with a win, we are absolutely wasting the bullpen arms. We are down to almost nothing in the pen right now – Foulke, who uncomfortably is suddenly in a position to get the save, Jimmy Anderson who, well, don’t ask. And Ramiro Mendoza, whose presence on the roster right now can only be explained by the fact that he was out of options. It’s the bottom of the ninth, we cling to a two run lead, Foulke is in, hopefully to throw water on the fire. Ichiro leads off with a single and then steals second. Varitek has taken over behind the plate, possibly because they had been stealing on ‘Belli all day. Meanwhile randy Winn walks on a check swing. Now Bret Boone is up. It need not be pointed out that he represents the winning run. OK. Breathe. Strikeout. Now Edgar Martinez is up. Exorcise that demon for us too, Foulke, and for yourself. Another K. Now their wunderkinder is up, Bucky Jacobsen, who has become a phenomenon in his couple of weeks up in the league. He has a big hitting streak on the line. This is going to kill me. Strike three! Game over. I am going to go and take my nitroglycerine pills now.

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