Fans and gurus alike threw out a wide range of predictions for Game Three in Boston.
Nobody saw this one coming.
Who would have thought that Jon Lester, who's gone 24-1/3 scoreless innings in post season play, would give up five runs in five innings at Fenway Park? Certainly not the Fenway faithful, who watched their prized southpaw get slapped all over the field.
This was their game. It could have been their chance to turn the tables on Tampa. What better place to do it than Fenway Park?
Instead, the Rays trampled the Sox. They stomped on Lester, Paul Byrd, Red Sox Nation, and they did it hard enough to give them the edge in the series.
I’ll tell you why the Sox lost the edge Monday night.
Before Game Three, Jon Lester was this year’s postseason Josh Beckett. As dependable as Dice-K has been this October, Lester was the most dominant pitcher in this year's playoffs. His 96 MPH fastball, his solid cutter, and his aura of confidence made him a scary pitcher to face in Game Four of the ALDS.
In Game Three, the Rays made him look like a little boy, standing firmly on defense but finally being cut down mercilessly.
"The Ace" is vulnerable.
Tuesday night is looking bleak. Tim Wakefield takes the mound against a team that has served him his fair share of earned runs. He’s 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA, meaning he gave up 10 earned runs in two losses against Tampa Bay. They appear to have his number.
Tampa hasn't won yet. Pedroia and Bay put good wood on the bat last night. The Boston lineup has defined “clutch” and “comeback” in the past decade. These guys specialize in postseason play. If the Sox lineup can come to life, it can carry the pitching.
Regardless, the Red Sox have their backs to the wall. Game Six will be an uphill battle, with an injured Beckett taking the hill. It doesn't help that Youkilis went 0-for-4 last night, Ellsbury is yet to get on base in the ALCS, and Ortiz is in the biggest slump of his postseason career. He still hasn’t knocked one out of the park this October.
If the Red Sox want to win, they need to come alive in every aspect of their game. Otherwise, they can pack it up for the winter.
It’ll be like old times in New England again.