Midnight in Baltimore

How devastating was last night for the Red Sox? The collapse that consumed the month of September was one thing, which ended with a 7-20 record coming down the stretch. But there was still hope for them, as they were clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning. At the same time, the Yankees had runners on first and third with no outs in the 12th inning, with a golden opportunity to put Tampa Bay away. Everything seemed to be going the Red Sox’ way, for a change.

And then midnight came to Baltimore–Poe’s hometown–both figuratively and literally. I was following the games online, and it didn’t seem possible that the Yankees could go from first and third with no outs to first and second with one out without a run being scored. What happened to the runner on third?

I found out when I saw the replay later on, but Greg Golson would have to be considered a goat for his baserunning blunder off of third base. People will remember Evan Longoria’s offense last night, but his heads-up defense helped to kill off the Yankees’ rally and should be remembered as well. I suppose there will now have to be a “Greg F. Golson” for Red Sox fans, to go along with Bucky F. Dent and Aaron F. Boone. Yankees all, I might point out.

But the Red Sox still controlled their own destiny, with Jonathan Papelbon on the mound in the ninth inning. His only job is to get three outs in a situation like this. And the Orioles–the worst team in the AL East– were going home after the game was over, anyway. This should not have been a problem. The first two batters went down swinging, and Chris Davis was all that stood in the Red Sox way.

Chris Davis began the year at Texas, and was traded to the Orioles at mid season. He went on the DL with a torn labrum, rehabbed in the minors earlier this month, and proceeded to tie the club record–and just miss out on the major league record–by striking out five times in one game on September 7. His future with the Orioles is uncertain, and yet he stepped in for what could have been the final at-bat of the season for the Orioles and doubled to right on the first pitch he saw.

Papelbon still had the hammer, with Nolan Riemold coming to the plate. But Riemold was up to the task, hitting a ground rule double into the seats in the right field bleachers. Tie game, lead gone, and the Red Sox fans–in Baltimore and everywhere else–grew very quiet. But the next batter, Robert Andino, was o-4 with two strikeouts already in the game. Surely a top closer like Papelbon could get him out, right?

It looked that way when the ball came off of his bat. Carl Crawford seemed to have it in his glove, even. But the ball came out and–since the runner at second was off on contact–the run came across. Game over. In the space of nine pitches, Boston’s flickering wild card hopes were extinguished.

But all was not lost yet. The Rays could still lose, and then there would be a playoff game to settle things. That would mean rooting for the Yankees, but what the hell? You do what you gotta do.

The result of the Rays/Red Sox game was posted with Evan Longoria at bat in the 12th. Exactly three pitches later, Longoria hit the modern day “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” through the lowest part of the fence, in the closest part of the outfield wall, and that was that. It wasn’t a towering bomb, but a line drive instead. And it was enough to seal the Red Sox’ doom.

Red Sox fans had to root for the Yankees when, in the end, the Yankees didn’t care if they won or lost. Joe Girardi’s decision not to use  Mariano Rivera was enough to tell us that. So the Red Sox are home now, and the calls for Francona and/or Epstein to be fired are probably at a fever pitch in Boston today.

You know what? Let them go, so the Ricketts family can bring them to Chicago. They have the winning pedigree that I’m looking for. So do it already, Red Sox Nation. Let the only winners you’ve ever had leave for someplace else. Old-time ballpark, tormented fan base–it’s perfect.

Theo Epstein, please come to my city and work your sabermetric magic here. Perhaps Poe and whatever creepy forces inspired him to write were helping to force you out of Boston. I can’t think of a more rational explanation for what I saw last night.

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