It seems like armchair, Monday morning quarterbacking to look with 20-20 hindsight at last nights Sox-Rays tilt and point the finger of blame at one Terry Francona. Well, it is. But last night, in the bottom of the eighth inning when Francona sent Clay Buchholz out to throw his 107th pitch to start the inning I thought "Oh, this is a mistake."
You see,the Sox had just taken the lead on Tampa Bay 2-1 on a Victor Martinez home run (third in two nights), giving Buchholz a chance for his 16th win. The Red Sox needed six more outs. True, the usual setup guy Daniel Bard had pitched last night. Also true, closer Jonathan Papelbon had pitched the ninth inning last night as well. But the team had Thursday off, so this would have required an inning from each for only the second night in a row. Or he could go to lefty rookie Felix Doubront, who has been remarkably reliable in a setup-for-the-setup role.
But no. After Buchholz had given seven outstanding innings Francona left him in for two more hitters. The first, Rays' centerfielder B.J. Upton,took the second pitch, a belt-high inside curve, deep to left to tie the game. Doubront and Bard did eventually pitch, and gave the Sox scoreless appearances. But rather than bring in Papelbon in a tie game, understandably, Francona went with Scott Atchison in the 10th, and Rays' DH Dan Johnson, who's hitting .149 now, took Atchison deep to win the game.
This one's on you Terry. You talk a good game about everyone on the 25 man roster doing their job when the time comes to produce wins. But when it came time to put those expressions of faith in your players into action, you failed. You needed six more outs. Bard for three or even four, and Papelbon for two or three. Worry about tomorrow's game tomorrow.
Yes, also, in the seventh J.D. Drew should have dropped the foul fly to right, rather than letting Carlos Pena tag and score that first Tampa Bay run. But you had a chance to help out your pitcher and get him a win by doing the right thing in the eighth, and you didn't. This one's on you, Terry.