By now, most if not all of you are aware of the events from Tuesday night's loss to the Blue Jays. If not, I direct you to SBN Boston, where I did a better job of summing up then I really intend to here.
Suffice to say, it was terrible.
Tim Wakefield was not good. He had control issues which led to baserunner after baserunner, and eventually five runs on the board in just five innings. It's almost comforting at this point when we can say that Wakefield didn't really "deserve" the win that he didn't get, but somehow the blow was not particularly softened by that.
The offense was spectacular, scoring eight runs off of Brandon Morrow to actually put Tim Wakefield in line for the win for once. After the fifth inning, everything seemed so perfectly close, and even after disaster struck, the offense almost managed to stage a comeback in the ninth. There's no blame to be laid at those feet.
The middle relief, well, they got the job done. Franklin Morales deserves no real credit for his mediocrity, but Dan Wheeler managed to essentially get the Sox through two innings with one run allowed--no small feat for the middle relievers on this team.
But then came Daniel Bard and Terry Francona, and everything fell to pieces.
Yes, you have to blame Daniel Bard, but not in any different a way than you would any other reliever having a bad night. After allowing one run in some 12 innings, it seems to me as though Daniel Bard was very nearly entitled to an off day. No pitcher can be so mechanically sound as to be 100% all the time, so that Bard came out wild and walking guys, well, it's just a fact of life.
But I just can't understand Terry Francona.
I've called the manager to task here time and again. I've made it quite clear that I am not a fan of his. And often enough, the defense by others of Francona on this site has been able to shed at least some light on his decisions, and made them at least seem rational.
I find myself in need of that same help now.
As Terry Francona watched Daniel Bard slowly but surely fall apart, his reaction was not to warm up Jonathan Papelbon, but Matt Albers, the man who had been so mind numbingly terrible of late that his entrance into the game was seen by many here as essentially a white flag, even coming as it did with the game tied and two outs in the inning.
I can accept that it's difficult to find a reason to substitute for Bard early in the inning. After loading the bases, for instance, there were still zero outs. Papelbon would've needed to come out and retire six batters in total if the Sox wanted to go all the way with him--no easy feat.
I can also accept that immediately following the two strikeouts it made sense to let Bard have a go at Thames.
But once he walked Thames, with so many pitches already on his arm, to not have Papelbon waiting warmed and ready to take on Jose Bautista, presumptive American League MVP, top hitter in the game, and general nightmare situation for poor Tim Wakefield sitting in the dugout watching things once again slip away...
I just don't get it. I can't figure out any angle to look at it from that doesn't end with my head in my hands. No, a five at-bat sample size does not clear his name.
If anything, it's just another example of how the "closer" aspect of things can screw games up. Imagine this scenario: Jonathan Papelbon enters in the eighth with zero outs and the bases loaded, gives up one run, and then comes out of the game. The Blue Jays, sensing blood in the water, still call on their closer to pitch the ninth, and then suddenly find themselves behind three runs thanks to Adrian Gonzalez et. al.
Now all that's separating the Sox and Wakefield from the win is three outs from anyone who later sat stunned in the locker room. Three outs and under three runs. Kyle Weiland could do that. Felix Doubront could do that. It may not have been a sure thing, but it damned sure would have been more likely than a gassed, control-free Daniel Bard getting past the best hitter currently swinging a bat.