By the time the ninth inning rolled around, Tuesday's game had already ceased to matter. With the Yankees defeating the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Red Sox had been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, making this just another game between non-contenders.
Still, there were things to be seen. There was John Lackey continuing to improve his season with six innings of two-run ball. There was Jed Lowrie putting in another good game with a single and a double, there was J.D. Drew hitting his 21st home run of the season, and there was David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre combining to go 5-for-7, including Papi's 32nd bomb of the year.
And then there was Terry Francona sending Daniel Bard out to pitch yet another inning.
Why, in a meaningless game, in a now officially meaningless season, is Daniel Bard advancing further into the seventies in innings pitched? Why is he the lone name that doesn't need any more proving pitching against the White Sox amongst Hill, Bowden, Richardson, and Fox?
Only Tito knows.
Still, Bard went out there and pitched yet another inning, and this one "cost" the Sox. With a 4-3 lead, Bard walked Manny Ramirez to lead off the eighth, and allowed a big double to Paul Konerko to tie it all up. It was the second straight appearance where Bard has allowed a run and at least one walk as the young flamethrower seemed to have difficulty locating his fastball. It's long overdue now, but please, with all hopes now mathematically dashed, no more Bard. Please.
All this lead into a ninth inning which saw a combination of Michael Bowden, Dustin Richardson, and Matt Fox, with only Bowden recording any outs. Recording two outs and allowing just a single, Michael Bowden left the game with the Sox poised to move into extra innings.
But then Dustin Richardson came in, and as he has done in now three of his last five outings, walked the only batter he faced (in another, he still didn't record any outs, but actually gave up two walks and a hit before being yanked). With the winning run just 90 feet away, Dayan Viciedo pinch hit against Matt Fox, and hit a screaming liner that bounced off a diving Daniel Nava's glove to knock off the Red Sox, 5-4.
The Sox will start their last go through the rotation tomorrow for those still faithfully following as Josh Beckett faces off against Freddy Garcia.