Gut check time starts tonight at Fenway

What is easily the biggest series of Boston’s baseball season starts tonight at Fenway, as the Rays come in for the first of a four-game series. Obviously this series is huge because the Sox didn’t take care of business last weekend at Tropicana Field, losing three straight.

The Rays deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the way they’ve hung in this thing, beating the Red Sox head on nine out of 14 times entering tonight.

“Against us, their pitching – they have a plan and they follow through with it,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “They’ve really done a good job against our hitters for the most part. They have very good pitching. They’re a hard team to play because they’re so aggressive and if you give them an opening they make you pay for it. Saying that, I’m kind of looking forward to this series. It’ll be fun to play. Because they are – they feel good about themselves. So this will be fun to play.”

This game is going to be the hardest of the four for the Sox to win, with Kyle Weiland facing a talented pitcher in Jeremy Hellickson.

“The kid tonight pitches beyond his years as far as maturity and his changeup. And he has enough velocity,” Francona said of Hellickson.

Here are all the permutations possible by the end of the weekend.

Sox win all four. They lead the Rays by eight with 10 to go.

Sox win three out of four. They lead the Rays by six with 10 to go.

Sox and Rays split the series. Sox still lead the Rays by four with 10 to go.

Rays win three out of four. They leave town two games behind the Sox with 10 to go.

Rays sweep. The teams are tied with 10 to play.

The Red Sox had some good news on the injury front today, as Clay Buchholz pitched off a mound for the first time since being shut down two months ago. Buchholz threw 15 pitches in front of the mound and 15 off of it. The righty’s big test will come Saturday, when he is scheduled to have a full-blown side session.

The other good news is that the lineup has both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, who have recovered enough from their nagging injuries to play in this one.

9 Comments

So the Rays have a plan how to win according to Francona. Too bad the Red Sox don’t have a similar plan. That’s right they do, how to lose, e.g., bad starting pitching, bad relief pitching, bad base running, bad hitting, bad hitting and pitching coaching, and bad managing.

Well I have managed to keep my blog-mouth shut almost all year :) . But I guess I am breaking down now. Way back in spring training, I wondered why everyone was so hyped about the SOX this year. True big improvements were made — and they paid dividends this year, but the real lurking problems, nobody seemed to talk about, and the Sox never seem to address, which are biting us big time now: (1) starting pitching (2) relief pitching (they did try to address that), (3) streaky players, and (4) injury prone players. Then there is Theo’s trade record (not draft record) and Francona’s game management, which I have never been fond of either, though both have met with some success.

(1) Starting Pitching — why was everyone so hyped about a Beckett, Lester, Buckholz, Lackey, Dice-K rotation? Only Lester and Buckholz had decent years last year. This year, Lester not so good, Buckholtz out (unfortunately), but the rest Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K were all question marks — and two of them panned out about as bad as you could imagine, only Beckett delivered.

(2) Relief Pitching — they did a good job at that — but I guess SP sunk the bullpen over time. How else can you explain their dive in September? … covering for SP that pretty much stunk all year, except for Beckett.

(3) Streaky players — too many of the SOX players are streaky by nature. They put up good numbers for the year, but only because of very productive and very unproductive periods. Only Gonzales and Ellsbury (who used to be streaky) were consistent this year (and Ortiz – had his most consistent year in a long time). Everyone else is and was very streaky, almost all year (and usually every year), that includes: Youk, Pedey, Crawford, Lowrie.. all our right fielders…. all are usually streaky. Scary when its comes to the playoffs. The chances that enough of these guys are going to be an up streak (given they are so streaky) is very risky.

(4) Injury prone — If I were the Sox, I would seriously consider getting rid of their trainer or med staff, or get-rid of whoever is the hypochondriac smothering person that hovers over this team every year now. I can’t imagine a more injury prone team over the past several years. This seems to be repeated cycle for the Sox now.

Then there is Theo’s trade record (not draft record) and Francona’s game management. Theo’s trade record (seems to me) just like the SOX — very streaky — mostly a bust though. Beginner’s luck in 2004 with the two Daves (Ortiz and Roberts), after that — there is Schilling — and ALL the rest are pretty much busts — with some incredible noteworthy stinkers (Lugo, Gagney, Dice-K, Smoltz, Colon, looks like Lackey, a bunch of garage-sale pitchers, a slew of short stops — never keeping the one good short stop, Alex Gonzales, and the list goes on the non-memorable or stinker side.

Francona’s game management. Of course this is easiest to criticize of all. Everyone says he is a players manager, and ball players want to play for him. There is a lot to be said for that. But it seems like Francona’s has little to no in-flight tactical abilities at all. Sounds like he plans out all the scenarios he can think of the day/night before the game (which is admirable), but then by-golley — he is going to stick to one of them no matter what he sees in the game.

My bigger beef with Francona right now, is that he is showing absolutely no confidence at all. Doesn’t sound like he could rally the troops at all. I suppose its good that he honest and straight-forward about how the Sox are playing, but Madden (for instance), at least publicly, transmits a lot more confidence (than Francona) in good times or bad. Right now, Francona seems to be transmitting none. The team really needs a rally cry now, but I don’t here even a hint of one makings its way out to us…

Anyway, the other problems above need serious correction, or it will be more of the same next year as well. Maybe Theo will go to the Cubs — and some of us will wish we had him back :) if Theo is as good as we are told :)

Time for the Sox to take care of business….

What’s the deal with the Red Sox supporting homosexual pedophile program called “It Gets Better”? Isn’t the founder a guy who publicly made vulgar comments about Sen. Brown and other conservatives? Are the Red Sox so far out there they support stuff like that? What happened to family friendly Fenway? And now the lackey PR debacle. What’s going on at Yawkey Way?

Just HOW can Crawford not DIVE for that sinking liner? The SEASON is on the line! He has to catch that ball!

Well, very few guts were to be found during “gut-check time”. This team, unfortunately, came up short when they needed some guts. Painful season. RIP, 2011 Red Sox.

Wow, what a year for the red sox! On paper the best team in the american league! Started out so well. I thought oh no the yankees will be crushed by the sox in the playoffs. The injuries did play a part, but lack of leadership made a difference. I was hoping for a yankee- red sox series in the ALCS. Next year I expect the red sox to be back. This was a sad season for the sox but they will be back next year.

wooooooooooooowoooooooooooooooo rays gone in 4!!!!! come on Tigers!!!!
GOTIGERSGOTIGERSGOTIGERS!!!

My son’s name is Beckett and he will always be proud of his name as I am of my team. I, like every true RED SOX fan, believes in this team and I believe that we will come back from this. Based on what I have read, I don’t think that the team believes in itself as much as it did in 2004 and 2007. We as fans believe not with just our head but with all of our hearts. Your either a fan or your not. There is no in-between. This team has serious problems and we need serious people and players to solve them. Don’t jump on the bandwagon, read the stats and player bios and be a fan for a good reason.

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