Traditionally the Boston Red Sox have a September Swoon (like in this 1998 story). They tease you all summer with power, with production, with pitching prowess and then, poof, suddenly it's gone, like Kaiser Soze. Previously strong pitching falters as the strike zone seems to shrink. Hitters get anxious, hacking at pretty much anything. And losses follow. They didn't wait that long this year, getting the whole collapse thing going shortly after the All Star break. They've won 8 games in August, 3 of them occurring in a sweep of the Orioles. They've lost 21, including the horrendous 5 game sweep by the Yankees in Boston. Prior to that was the foreboding three game sweep by Kansas City, of all teams.
Why has this happened? Let's start with injuries. They don't tell the entire story, but they're a good place to start. In early August they lost both RF Trot Nixon and C Jason Varitek to injuries. Both are in rehab now, and will likely be back, but it will be too late. Slick-fielding shortstop Alex Gonzalez has been out during this stretch. LF Manny Ramirez and DH David Ortiz, the #3 and #4 hitters (and offensive marvels) are both in Boston getting checked out for a bum knee and an irregular heartbeat respectively. Thats 5 of your 9 everyday players, including 4 of the top 5 offensive players.
But Varitek's injury affects the offense even less than it does the pitching. He calls a solid game, and there is no replacing that. The pitching has been ineffective since his knee injury - starters, relievers, and yes, even closer included. Jonathan Papelbon has given up more runs and more leads in August than he had prior to August. The young middle relief corps has needed Varitek, and he hasn't been there for a month. They've also been missing Tim Wakefield, who gives them innings and saves the bullpen. Josh Beckett has been difficult to figure in between sterling patches of work. Matt Clement was ineffective, then he was injured. They've run in a collection of number five starters. Now 22 year old lefty Jon Lester is on the DL, and being worked up for enlarged lymph nodes.
All of this had given me a headache, and it has given the Red Sox sizeable deficits in the run for the playoffs, both division and wildcard. So it won't happen for the Red Sox this year. I can accept that. I am serene, at peace with this baseball season. In other words, the headache is gone now, and now I can enjoy the games.