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One Minute To Midnight: Sox Coming All Too Close To Disaster

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Saturday night, the Red Sox showed more life than they had in the three previous games.

They still lost.

The "life" I refer to was their ability to, for once, actually fight back and overcome deficits. They faced a 1-0 deficit after the first inning, and tied things with some (relatively) small ball in the second. They fell behind 3-1 after Kyle Weiland offered up another run in both the second and third, and came right back on Adrian Gonzalez' 2-run shot. There was excitement, which Sox fans haven't really felt much of since the Tim Wakefield game was thrown away.

They weren't even done there, though. Alfredo Aceves had a rare mediocre inning, allowing a couple of runs including a Casey Kotchman bomb immediately after Gonzalez' game-tying shot that left the Sox behind 5-3. It almost seemed like that lead would hold, too, as the Sox recorded one out in the ninth before doing anything.

Up came Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Getting ahead 0-2, Kyle Farnsworth tried to catch the outside edge. He got perhaps a bit too much of it, as Saltalamacchia jumped all over the fastball and launched a solo homer to right field. 5-4

Then in stepped Jacoby Ellsbury. Again, Farnsworth managed to put up two strikes, and again, he tried to pick up a called third strike with a tricky pitch--this time a backdoor slider. Once again, though, the pitch was just a bit too much of a strike, and once again, it left the park. The back-to-back home runs tied the game, and suddenly the Sox were alive again.

Or at least they were until David Ortiz grounded into a double play with one out and two on to end the top of the ninth, and the Sox lineup went completely quiet. Jonathan Papelbon did his job, putting up a pair of very quick scoreless innings, but with no support, the Sox had to turn to Daniel Bard again in the eleventh, and that's where the game ended.

It started, and essentially ended with Desmond Jennings, who lifted a high fly ball to right that dropped in curiously. It's impossible for us to say exactly what happened, but at the very least a failure to communicate seems likely, as Darnell McDonald, seemingly with the best shot at the ball, veered away at the end of his run, giving way to Jacoby Ellsbury, who made a last-ditch diving attempt. The ball shot past a completely helpless looking McDonald, giving Jennings the opportunity to race to third.

Now needing only a decent fly ball to leave Tropicana with a win, the Rays sent their 2-3-4 hitters to the plate. B.J. Upton did nothing, grounding out to first too fast to give Jennings a chance to make a run for it. But then the inexplicable happened, and the Sox chose to pitch to the best batter on the Rays' team (whether the numbers bare it out this year or not) instead of setting up a double play opportunity, and the entirely questionable risk in no way paid off. Bard got ahead 0-2, delivered a pitch at the outside corner of the top of the strike zone, and saw Longoria put a nice, level swing on it for the game winning line drive single.

The Sox are now one game away from the nightmare scenario, with momentum clearly in the other team's corner.