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V, the final battle

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  October 2, 2012 08:42 AM

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"If we play like this the rest of the season, we’re going to win a championship.”

Since manager Bobby Valentine uttered those infamous words on May 25, following a 6-5 win in Baltimore, the Red Sox have clearly done little to back up such lofty dreams, going just 47-69 the rest of the way, including a mind-numbing 16-40 since the beginning of August.

The end is near. Hallelujah.

Boston has its final shot of a 2012 victory tonight with Jon Lester on the hill against the Yankees in New York, essentially making the next two games must-wins for the Baltimore Orioles, who watched the Red Sox field a lineup nothing short of embarrassing in last night’s 10-2 loss. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches in tomorrow’s season finale, a somewhat fitting start for a team – and a player – which once had such expectation only to sputter into oblivion.

The Orioles lost Monday night to the Rays, 5-3, dropping a game behind New York for the AL East crown. They likely will have to face the Oakland A’s in a one-game wild card playoff Friday. Oakland clinched its own new-age playoff spot with a 4-3 win over the Rangers. The Tigers clinched the Central with a 6-3 win over the Royals. But thanks to a convoluted schedule, nobody besides Detroit has any clue where it will be playing later this week.

Last night’s atrocity certainly didn’t make Valentine any friends on Yawkey Way, Eutaw Street, or the commissioner’s office. The game is in the midst of a memorable race to the finish, but that integrity matters not. This is about Bobby V, after all. Always has been.

“Can’t wait to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Yankees in a game that’s pretty important to the AL East race,” a longtime National League scout told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, which is sort of an insult to the International League champs. “Are the Red Sox trying to help the Yankees win this thing? I’ve never seen such a weak roster.”

The Red Sox scored 78 runs last month, worst in the American League. Their .594 OPS was almost .100 points lower than the second-worst in September (Minnesota, .681). Yet, here they are, helping decide playoff seeding in the American League, long after they’ve rolled over and played dead.

Not having talent is one thing, eschewing any semblance of pride is more concerning. The only spoiler remaining is seeing whether Valentine makes it to Friday, or if the Red Sox can him immediately after the final out.

"If we play like this the rest of the season, we’re going to win a championship.”

The Sox were 22-22 when Valentine made that statement, which only opened the thought that this was a man who was far too eager for returns without figuring out what it really took to get there.

Bristol has his number.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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