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Rays give Francona and Second-Place Red Sox Plenty to Second-Guess.

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Capt

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Beckett was exceptional, throwing 8 innings of 1-run ball in enemy territory. The Sox offense was simply unable to back him up properly.

So, a big fat shout-out to Josh Beckett, who was every bit of himself for 8 innings this evening. He left with the game tied, having engaged in an excellent pitching duel vs. Andy Sonnanstine and co. A Carlos Pena solo HR is the only blemish on an excellent night tonight from Becks.

Offense. Boo. Boo. Boo. All right. Credit where credit is due. Andy Sonnanstine is the exact kind of pitcher the Sox generally struggle against, and his command of the strike zone and fearlessness in attacking the zone were pivotal in his success tonight. However, the Sox continually alternated between being aggressive and patient/passive at the plate tonight, and there never seemed to be a consistent game plan. Despite three decent PAs, I am going to single out Jed Lowrie a little bit. His last PA against Dan Wheeler was abysmal, one of maybe a handful of PAs he's had in sort of "crunch time" situations in which he has looked like a rookie. He's not the only one, however, who should wish for their own personal time machine.

Second-guessing: Justin Masterson over Manny Delcarmen or Jonathan Papelbon: If you're going to not use Paps, then entering a tie game with your 3rd or 4th most talented reliever rather than your second-most talented reliever doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I know there are many who have lost faith in MDC this season, but two facts are worthy of consideration: He truly is the second most talented RP in our bullpen; and his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is actually down a half-run from last season (3.85 v. 3.32). MDC has had some meltdowns in games that have seemed more important than "just one game" this season, but the fact is that he's pitching better than last season and has been unlucky w/r/t BIP v. last season. He also hadn't thrown since Friday.

Second-guessing: Leaving Mike Lowell in: Yes, he got the single and is a valuable safety net for Becks who seems partial to influencing his GBs to the third baseman. However, he was clearly in a lot of pain after making the play vs. Jason Bartlett, and you wonder whether giving him the rest of the night off tonight could've made him better available to play tomorrow. As it is, we have to assume that Bailey or Carter will probably start at 1B tomorrow (Sean Casey?) with Youks at 3B, leaving our offense looking weak with Cash and a rookie in. I suppose Cora at SS and Lowrie at 3B is also an option, but Cora doesn't exactly inspire me with confidence either, along with Kotsay and Ells kind of dragging down the OF lately. 

Second-guessing: The timing of Evelyn Jane Bay: Just kidding. Amidst a poor game for the Sox, we're brought news of this wonderful miracle in the life of our new LF, Jason Bay and his wife and family. Congratulations to Jason and all the Bays.

...

Sox get a chance to tie the division back up tomorrow, with Tim Wakefield against short-rest Garza. I'll be working, hold it down for me.