Is tonight a must win game?

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2008

For the first time in their past twelve post-season games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and in their past ten overall playoff games, the Red Sox found themselves on the wrong end of the ledger.

To find a game in which the Red Sox had the opportunity to clinch a post-season series with a victory only to walk away with a loss, you would have to travel back to 2003 in Yankee Stadium as they watched Aaron Boone walk into history on the back of Grady Little.

As much as that devastating failure had symbolized the Red Sox franchise as it was then known (curse and all), the post-Grady Red Sox have been known for their ability to throw the knockout punch. In their last six opportunities to close out a playoff series, they had done so.

With that type of post-season success at their backs and still a game in hand in the Division Series the Red Sox confidence isn’t likely very shaken by last night’s defeat no matter how foreign the feeling has become.

With Jon Lester, “ace in waiting”, ready to back up his game one performance tonight at Fenway Park where he is 11-1 this season and 16-2 in his career, the Red Sox have all the reason in the world to be confident.

For the first time this series, however, the tenor of the game for the Red Sox is slightly different. While there is pressure in every playoff game for each team, the Angels have felt the brunt of post-season pressure at the outset of each game this series. The luxury of grabbing the first game in the series afforded the Red Sox to not have to play with their backs against a wall.

But, as is the case in the short format of the Division Series, all of that can change with the swing of a bat.

It’s not like the Red Sox and a Terry Francona managed team to look more than one game ahead. They have excelled at living in the moment in both the regular season and playoffs alike.

Maybe it’s another night of baseball until 1:30 AM talking with the prospects of another post-1 AM night ahead of us this evening, but my usual optimistic and logical self is a little beaten down.

I can’t help myself from asking one question; “Do you trust Daisuke Matsuzaka going back to Anaheim for a decisive game 5 after the Angels would have gathered all that momentum sweeping the Red Sox in Fenway Park?”

If your answer is similar to mine, the natural follow up question is “Is Jon Lester pitching tonight in a must win game?”

Before I take to much heat for some obvious points of contention with this question, namely;

  1. Every game in the post-season has the feeling of a must win game
  2. The Angels have more right to define this game as a must win game, as should they lose, their season would be over

At the same time, I harken back to my two previous questions and my answers lead me back to the clear feeling that tonight is in fact as much of a must win game as you can have in a game that doesn’t hold your season’s end in it’s direct outcome.

The Angels will play tonight with the glimmer of hope of seeing that little Rally Monkey dancing to the crescendo of Thunder Sticks in Anaheim. They’ll throw everything they have at Jon Lester tonight. It will be up to Lester tonight to do what Josh Beckett last night was unable to do; close the door.

So I’ll leave you to nurse your bleary eyes in the comments with two questions:

  1. Will the Red Sox and Jon Lester close the door tonight?
  2. If not, do you trust Daisuke Matsuzaka going back to Anaheim for a decisive game 5?

There’s nothing like playoff baseball, is there?!!