Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sweet Redemption?

Have the Sox shown the tenacity to spur a comeback in the division?

It was the bottom of the 9th, and Jonathan Papelbon was staring down Randy Winn. Full count with two outs to go. The Sox closer was trying to hold onto a 7-6 lead with the Yankees threatening with a man at second and third. Again, the game was in Papelbon's hands.

Just the night before, a shoulda-been monumental win was brutally transformed into a devastating loss. The Sox rallied in the 8th to come from behind and take a 2 run lead. A Red Sox team that had looked dead all season was given life. It could've been the turning point of the season - the kind of game that galvanizes a team. Then, Papelbon blew it. He gave up 2 home runs in the 9th, including a walk-off to Marcus Thames, and the Sox fell 11-9. 

This certainly seemed like the most deflating loss of the season. One that would stay with fans for a long time. Even when they had given a phenomenal effort and they still came up short. Heading into the next night, many expected the Sox to show up flat as they did on Sunday after a mortifying loss to the Detroit Tigers. However, Boston showed a strength of will that no one thought was left. 

In the beginning they were flat, down 5-0 to start the 6th inning. All five of those runs being given up by starting ace, Josh Beckett, who's struggled mightily to start the season. It had all the makings of a normal and disappointing 2010 Red Sox game. Shoddy pitching and lack of run support against a top tier team. Hope was lost. Yet, the Red Sox weren't phased - they battled back against Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera in the 8th and 9th to take a 7-6 lead. A lead which, again fell to Papelbon to protect. Something he was itching to do, "It's a heavyweight fight. They might get one good blow in but they're not going to knock me down". This time he came through and the Red Sox can head home forgetting about Monday night. They had gotten their miraculous come back. It only took the second try.

Papelbon tried not dwell on his blown save Monday night as much as the fans and media did, "It's just like any blown save", he said, "...Forget about it. Move on. That's the nature of the beast". He was right. It happens. The reason his team won last night was because Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, blew a save - his second in three days.

Can this win serve to galvanize a team that's now still a mere 20-20? Which, by the way, is the worst start the Red Sox have had since 1997. The team faces a great challenge in the Minnesota Twins tonight and a win could be a convincing start to a turnaround. The past two games, Boston has shown that it has the capability to come from behind against tough competition. Which is exactly what they have to do to rescue their season. The Sox are 8.5 games behind the AL-East leading Rays and face a stretch of difficult teams over the next 8 games (Twins, Phillies, Rays). Are the Sox capable of handling the challenge? Last night they showed they have the tenacity to hang with the punches. This next week will reveal a great deal more about this team's character and whether they can once again crack into the MLB's elite.

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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