It would be really easy to write that umpire C.B. Bucknor is a horrible umpire that blew two calls tonight that swayed the momentum into the Angels' favor. It would be really easy to write that games -- especially ones in the postseason -- should not be decided by umpires. It would be really easy.
But it's not the reason why the Red Sox lost tonight.Let's get this out of the way early, though: no matter what team you root for, you can say that Bucknor blew two easy calls. One was a Kevin Youkilis tag of Howie Kendrick. The other was a Youkilis tag of first base, with Kendrick running on the play. Bucknor called Kendrick safe for both. I don't care how tight you hold your Rally Monkey at night, we can all agree those were blown plays.
With that said, it doesn't really matter.
The Red Sox didn't hit the ball -- Torii Hunter did. The Red Sox didn't really pressure John Lackey -- Bobby Abreu, single-handedly, pressured Jon Lester. The Red Sox lost. The Angels won.
Not only did the Angels win, but they shut out the Red Sox, 5-0. Instead of looking at what the Sox did wrong tonight, let's look at what they did right.
What did they do right?
The offense managed four hits all game, all off Lackey in his 7.1 innings of work. Lackey looked like a fat Roy Halladay out on the mound. Darren Oliver, who worked the final 1.2 innings, looked like a circa-1996 Heathcliff Slocumb.
Lackey isn't an amazing pitcher, but he certainly toyed with the Sox all night. He threw a ton of pitches (115), but it also didn't seem like he struggled to get any outs. Lackey is a pitcher that works off of adrenaline -- if you give him the upper hand, he takes it and slashes your throat with it. That happened tonight.
On the flipside, Jon Lester could not find the strikezone. He walked four batters in his 6 innings of work. That's completely unacceptable. You should not win a postseason game if your ace is giving up four walks in six innings. Five strikeouts is fine, but you can't walk batters and expect to win a ballgame cleanly. One thing is for sure: if Lester walked, say, only one batter, this would have been a completely different game.
Still, though, Hunter hit that bomb. And it was a bomb. I'm not a fan of Torii Hunter (unlike everyone else in the world, it seems) but there certainly was nothing cheap about that. Kudos, Mr. Hunter. You deserved to trot around the bases.
And that's about it, folks. We can't complain about Bucknor (well, we can, but it's not going to make this loss feel any better). The only thing we can do is hope the Sox learned something from this.
I, for one, hope the Sox learned a few things: 1) you can't dink around with this team. The Angels are good, but no one can afford to walk any player four times, let alone Abreu. 2) don't put the game in the ump's hands. Sure, Bucknor blew it bad, and there were some questionable calls behind the plate, but why even get it to that point? Pound the strike zone, get the strikeouts. Throw the ball on a line. Take Bucknor out of the game (which will be difficult considering he's behind the plate for game two).
Lastly, No. 3: the Red Sox are a much better team than we saw tonight. Much better. This was a bush-league effort from them tonight. We didn't really see much emotion out of them until the screwjobs cropped up late in the game. Carry that into tomorrow's game and mash the hell out of Jered Weaver. Make him wish he was his brother -- which would take a helluva a beating to accomplish.
What we saw tonight was not Boston Red Sox baseball. And if that Boston Red Sox baseball doesn't show up Friday night, you can kiss any chance of a November duck parade goodbye.