Take a seat and chill, Josh; My man Lester got yo' back, foo'!
Okay, maybe that "street" talk wasn't appropriate coming from the fingers of the whitest Irish man in the northern hemisphere. I don't even think you can call it "street" if you put an apostrophe after "yo" and "foo" or if you put "street" in "quotations." It doesn't matter, though. What matters is: I'm really not worried, and neither should you be. No, really, I mean it.
I'm serious, relax!
I mean, let's face facts, Red Sox Nation: Beckett hasn't been the ace all year. I don't know why everyone assumed he was suddenly going to turn into Zeus and shoot lightening bolts from his arm just because they were in the playoffs, but it seems everyone did. I won't lie, I made the same mistake. I think now it's time everyone recognizes that mistake and come to embrace the man they call Lester.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, let's journey back:
Last night, the Red Sox had the chance to eliminate the 100-game winners from Anaheim in Game Three of the ALDS for the sixtieth consecutive series. On the hill for the Sox was, as mentioned before, Josh Beckett. He was squaring off against Joe Saunders, a man so well known that I actually had to look him up on Wikipedia.
In the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere, this seemed like a no-brainer win for the Beantown Team. Everyone had the beer shaken and ready for explosion. We were all fully prepared to turn over cars and destroy public property, as is our local tradition. Unfortunately, this years edition of Josh Beckett didn't come standard with automatic clutch like last years did. We can only hope the manufacturer comes to their sense and re-installs this feature for 2009.
The game started poorly right out of the metaphorical gate for Beckett. After following a lead-off double with two strikeouts, it seemed as though he was going to come out of the inning unscathed. But with the lack of clutch, he then proceeded to allow a walk, an infield single and a walk. Suddenly, the Angels found themselves up 1-0 before the Sox even got a chance to finish stretching their hamstrings and finish off their Italian sausages with extra peppers and onions.
The Sox didn't seem worried, though. The grabbed their chunks of wood in the second inning and promptly provided 3 runs of support off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. With the bases loaded, he took a 3-2 pitch and sent a screaming line-drive into center field to clear the bases. Torii Hunter made a valiant attempt at catching Ellsbury's vicious smash, but he was just no match for that kind of power. That man has a family to think about, after all.
In 2007, a 3-1 lead would have been all Beckett would have needed. In 2008, however, a 3-1 lead only meant that Mike Napoli was about to hit a 2-run home run an astronomical unit in length in the very next frame to tie the game at 3-3, and again in the top of the fifth to give the Angels a 4-3 lead.
The Sox would pull even in the bottom of the fifth when Ellsbury and Youkilis would take turns hitting doubles, but that would be the last scoring of the game until the twelfth.
The bullpens for both teams did a solid job of keeping the game tight. Each of Boston's first four pitchers out of the bullpen would proceed to only allow a single hit apiece. The Angels bullpen saw this and said "Oh yeah? Well, watch this!" Then they sent out three pitchers who would didn't allow any hits at all. The Red Sox responded to this by sticking their tongues out and calling them "poopy heads."
Thankfully, this kind of behavior didn't escalate into "yo mama" jokes, or we could have seen things get very ugly. I think the umpiring crew did an excellent job corralling these hard-nosed ball players.
So, after six innings of scoreless baseball, it seemed as though this game was destined to go on forever. It was after midnight, for crying out loud, and some people actually have to work the next morning. Sometimes people can be so inconsiderate!
Fortunately, the Sox had Javier Lopez. Francona called down to the bullpen and told Lopez to go out there and send the series into Game Four. "The front office really wants another home game this October, and we think you're just the man for the job," was what he said. Lopez took that challenge and ran with it.
Coming into the game in the twelfth, Lopez promptly allowed two singles and a sacrifice, not in that order, to give the Angels a one-run lead. It wasn't exactly the sure-fire loss the organization was hoping for, but you work with what you're given.
The Red Sox made a thrilling attempt to dash the teams plans for an extra home game by coming back in the bottom half of the inning when David Ortiz stepped up to the plate and heroically walked. Unfortunately, the rally was cut short when the next three guys went down in order.
So, the Angels finally got that monkey off their backs (I refuse to make a rally monkey joke here) and actually won a post-season game against the Red Sox for the first time in a billion years. Congratulations, Anaheim, enjoy it. You deserve it.
Unfortunately for you, Lester is waiting to take the hill tonight.
And so we come back around to the original topic: There is no need for Red Sox fans to panic. I know that is basically Standard Operating Procedure following a Red Sox post-season loss, but I am confident that Lester has a Game Four masterpiece in that magical left arm of his.
My only real concern is for Beckett. I can only hope that he can find a way to regain some of that swagger that he seems to have misplaced from last season. The team is going to need some more impressive performances out of him down the stretch if the Sox can hope to become repeat World Champions.
Somebody needs to tell him to check under his couch for that swagger. I always find my stuff under there.