CHICAGO — Now, now, there was a reason everyone went around yesterday saying “Boston in 4,” now wasn’t there?
Still, this 14-2 demolition of the Olde Towne Team is a loss disturbing enough to stoke the “Fire Francona now!” maniacs to come out of their own brand of woodwork. I’m surprised some of these over-reactionary yahoos aren’t upset Theo Epstein didn’t make his way to the first base dugout in the fifth inning and do the job right then and there.
In fact, if you had to go ahead and pick one game, just one, that the Red Sox would lose in this best-of-five affair, well you did take a glance at the pitching lineups, did you not?
What was Matt Clement supposed to do out there? Suddenly become the pitcher he hasn’t been since June? That’s not going to happen, especially when he’s going up against an all-of-a-sudden stud in Jose Contreras, who showed he’s still the pitcher he was in September, when he was nails. What’s more concerning about Clement than his inability to locate his fastball is that his late-season swoon is now as much of a tradition for him as the freshman paddles were for the boys of Richard Linklater’s youth. Are you feeling two more seasons, Red Sox Nation?
Give Chicago fans this, they have been overlooked this baseball season, ignored like another reality show involving eating live worms, until they take over the general mindset. Only then does America think it’s a good idea, and maybe watching people eat worms isn’t so bad. Ozzie Guillen’s boys have been doubted and scoffed at for the better part of five months by folks from Truro to Tijuana, and they responded in the past week by whipping the Cleveland Indians’ tails right out of contention, and pounding the snot out of the defending world champions.
Key on “Defending.” For how long?
The White Sox fans here reveled when Clement finally (well, finally being relative, as it was the fourth inning) was lifted after allowing eight runs on seven hits, three of them home runs. But hey, he didn’t walk anyone, and that was the stigma that followed him during his tour of duty in this city, on the part of town that actually has some semblance of life surrounding it.
Call it a deserved bravado on the part of the fans. Call it confidence in grabbing a 1-0 lead. The White Sox certainly impressed, with a winning mix of power and hustle on the basepaths that will make the grocers around the corner from the Red Sox team hotel stock up on even more Metamucil for Francona.
In fact, as I write this, at 7:33 p.m., Central time, the TV in the left field auxiliary press box is tuned to the local evening news, where the reporter with the world’s most powerful hair dryer is on hand at ye Olde Comiskey talking to a group of fans acting like they either just won the World Series (re-named the Super Bowl apparently by my cab driver this morning) or they all simultaneously discovered their cars were still where they had left them in their South Side parking lots.
We’ve said all along, the Red Sox don’t have the pitching to get it done this year. And what do we get in Game 1? A 14-2 laugher that only further illustrates that point. Still, you have to like them in this series regardless, as tomorrow’s starter David Wells simply thrives in this situation, while Mark Buehrle, lights out otherwise, has struggled against Boston (6.23 ERA vs. 3.12 overall).
“I know he’s going to go out there and so what Boomer does,” Buehrle said earlier today. “I’ll go out there pretty much and attack them the same way and hopefully hit my spots.”
Look back to a year ago this time. The Red Sox were able to seal their playoff spot a wee bit earlier than the final day, and properly lined up Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez to go up 2-0 on the Angels. Schilling won’t pitch until Saturday this time around (if it gets there) and Pedro isn’t here. That is a marked difference in your world champs and these guys.
And yet, they are still good enough to get the job done for one series at least. The White Sox couldn’t have looked much better, and it’s been some time since we’ve seen the Red Sox look any worse.
With any luck, a little bit of balance will be on display in Game 2.