Even in the worst seasons there are silver linings, bright spots, and excellent moments. This game was full of them, and also one of the most crushing returns to reality of the year.
The bright spots? Clay Buchholz went seven strong, only really hurting himself with a couple errant pickoff throws, the second of which cost him a run. Since finally shaking off the rust and getting truly healthy, he's been everything he was in the last two years and more, playing the roll of stopper when the Sox needed it most-even if the Sox were able to undo all his good work in the last two innings.
Then there was Pedro Ciriaco, who resumed his ridiculous schedule of clutch hitting by launching a go-ahead homer in the eighth after Andrew Miller had surrendered the lead in the top half of the inning. He's fun to watch, and we'll always have his fun run in the same way we have Adrian Beltre's one-knee blasts in 2010.
I'll get to the last silver lining later, but for now, let's acknowledge the reality: even after the clutch homer put them up 3-2, and Cody Ross added a hit to make it 4-2, the Red Sox still found a way to lose. Not just a game, but their fourth straight, and third straight to the Twins. That's right: a series loss. To the Minnesota Twins. In Fenway.
After already having to escape Andrew Miller's bases loaded, zero outs situation in the eighth, Alfredo Aceves came back out for the ninth, struck out Brian Dozier, and then fell right to pieces. One run came in with two men reaching base, bringing Joe Mauer to the plate with two outs, the tying run on third, and the go-ahead run on second. Mauer worked the count full, Aceves gave him an inside fastball, game over. The three-run shot didn't erase the bottom of the ninth for the Sox, but given how the game had built to it, there was no real belief that Boston was going to do anything in the bottom half.
This is, again, a new low. Two games under .500 after responding to a four-game winning with a four-game losing streak including dropping three to the Twins. And that brings me to the last bright spot, because this might be the last straw on Bobby Valentine's back. He did another atrocious job of managing the bullpen tonight by letting Aceves stay out there to face the lefty Mauer when Craig Breslow was in the pen. He lost to the Twins in a series they desperately needed to win even to provide just an appearance of contention.
Come the end of the season, this Red Sox team will need a scapegoat. Maybe they'll try and make one out of Beckett, but Valentine is a much easier financial hit to take, just as hated in Boston, and far less likely to be useful in 2013. We passed the point of "indefensible" with his managerial decisions two months ago, there's too much smoke around the clubhouse's opinion of him for there to be no fire, and now the results aren't even mediocre enough to let him slip by.
Who knows? Maybe we'll get swept tomorrow and they'll sack him on the spot. All I know is that for once I actually look forward to the smear campaign to come.