Who knew Tampa and Cleveland have something in common? And they might have two things in common come Sunday.
When you're up 3-1 in the series, and 7-0 in the seventh inning, you're pretty much assured a victory, but the one thing you don't do is to let a team like Boston get a foot in the door. So when the they scored the first run last night with seven outs remaining in the game, that should have been as grave a warning as Paul Revere's was. The Red Sox are coming!
One of the things I constantly gripe about with my Diamondbacks is that when you have a guy pitch a great eighth, why do you pull him in the ninth? I mean, I know why, but why are these idiot managers so rigid? At least let your setup guy pitch to the first batter. If he gives up a hit or a walk, then bring in the closer. But no, that's not how baseball works…
Except remember when the closer used to work as much as three innings?
Last night, when it was then 7-1 Tampa, it was time to get really serious, really fast. There's just no excuse for letting it slip away. OK, maybe there is, but we won't know in this case because Tampa's manager pulled a Melvin. When Boston got their second hit in the seventh and the lead runner had to stop at third with two outs and no runs had yet scored, THAT was the time for a new pitcher. But like Bob Melvin, Tampa's manager waited until the damage was done.
And the rest is history.
I have no dog in the hunt, but Tampa beat Boston for the division title, and Boston has won a lot lately so Tampa is my sentimental favorite. And now they stand a very real chance of losing. Now Boston only has to concentrate on one game – tomorrow's. They are no longer burdened by Tampa's seemingly insurmountable lead.
As events unfolded last night, I said to my wife that if Boston won, they have the momentum, and that's no small deal. Suddenly Tampa's inexperience shows. They have risen to the occasion before, and they could very well again, but the League Championship Series isn't like winning the division title. This is far more intense. And I'll take Beckett over Shields anytime, no matter that Beckett has been awful lately. Luckily for the Rays they're playing in Tampa. If they were in Boston, I'd already be writing them off