Red Sox “Finest Hour” Turns Into “Five Miserable Minutes”

It won’t be the worst loss of the season but it currently sits in second place behind the May 17th NY debacle, and I am confident that when the ballots are counted in October, last night will be one of the season’s five worst moments. Throw in some bad luck and a tough loss on Tuesday and this trip to Denver is leaving me tired and cranky.

Last night looked like it was going to be Boston’s “Finest Hour.” Down four, the Sox were up against the best pitcher in baseball and hardly playing with a full deck. But they chipped away and finally exploded as Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald and John Lackey all came up big against a pitcher who is off to one of the best starts in modern baseball history. That pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, had pitched 101 innings coming into last night and given up just thirteen runs. So the fact that Boston was able to hang six more runs on that total in just under six innings is anomalous to say the least.

Following Boston’s explosion, John Lackey settled down and handed the game off to Daniel Bard who mowed down the heart of Colorado’s lineup. So all that separated Boston from a terrific win was Jon Papelbon and the bottom of Colorado’s lineup. Unfortunately, Jon Papelbon completely imploded, surrendered two BOMBS, and the Sox “finest hour” turned into a “forgettable five minutes.”

Folks, you just can’t lose games like last night. Limping along, the Sox are getting tremendous contributions from unlikely sources. And those contributions can’t be wasted like this. And there is no one to blame here other than Jon Papelbon, whose performance this year has been no better than “middling.” Having tossed two gopher balls last night, Papelbon has now given up six home runs on the year which is a career high. And it’s only June 24th! It doesn’t matter what numbers you look at, Papelbon’s decline is striking. His strikeouts are WAY DOWN, his home runs are WAY UP, his walks are up and his earned runs are soaring to levels that are double what they have been over Cinco-Ocho’s career. Yeah, if you take out last night and a meltdown to NY, the numbers tell a different story but I’m sorry, last time I checked, all the games counted.

I don’t think I am alone when I say that I just don’t have much confidence in Papelbon anymore. He’ll still get his saves but in tight games like last night, watch out. He just isn’t the same guy he was in 2007 and 2008. Not even close. I realize he is playing around with some new pitches and there are some growing pains but that doesn’t hide the fact that his old stuff, which was the good stuff, is not very good anymore.

I don’t think the situation has quite reached the point of where we were in 2005 when Keith Foulke was blowing up nightly. But it isn’t pretty.  And the fact of the matter is, the Boston bullpen is just not very good right now. And the answer isn’t Daniel Bard because if you make Bard the closer, who takes his place? Papelbon? Sorry, simply re-arranging the deck chairs is not the answer.    

A Few Other Thoughts:

* Jeremy Hermida, your services are not needed. It appalls me to hear some suggest that Nava or McDonald will be a casualty when Hermida returns in ten days. Sorry guys, this is a case where a player got hurt and lost his job. Case closed. I realize that Hermida is making money and doesn’t have options but there is no way the Sox can justify keeping him around while Nava is raking and McDonald is perfectly suited to be a fifth outfielder. I don’t think the Sox can get a ton for Hermida but at this point, who cares?  When Ellsbury returns, its Ells in Center, Drew in right with some spells from McDonald, and Nava splits time in left with Cameron. That is my final answer.

* It now looks like Josh Beckett will not be back until late July. I am beginning to think this all because Terry Francona just doesn’t have the stomach to send Tim Wakefield back to the bullpen. Late July? Beckett’s little back flare-up looks like it will end up costing TEN weeks and that doesn’t bode well for the future. Theo, you just couldn’t wait to extend this guy, could you?

* Any surprise that JD Drew’s “back by Tuesday” now looks more like “see you Saturday?” With two lefties throwing in San Francisco, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Drew sit out until next Tuesday. Thanks Mike Cameron  …. thanks for dropping that third out that kept the defense on the field and led to Drew’s injury.

* There was word yesterday that Jed Lowrie had a “very bad day” on the rehab front. Three months after coming down with Mono and Lowrie is still having bad days?

* Mike Lowell is now on the DL with a hip injury? Hmmm, that one doesn’t pass the sniff test. Just cut the guy for God sake.   

* Josh Reddick made some nice plays last night but it’s clear, he is not ready to hit MLB pitching. Not even close.

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