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Monday, October 12, 2009

Farewell Red Sox, see ya in the spring

Well that didn't take long. The Red Sox' 2009 season ended abruptly yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park as they suffered their most bitter loss of the season, 7-6 to the legit. Los Angeles Angels.

The Angels proved (like I said after game 1 of the ALDS) that the one-sided past history didn't mean anything as they rallied from a 5-1 deficit and scored three runs in the ninth against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon (who had never allowed a run before in 27 postseason innings).

As surprising as the loss was, it looked like game 4 was a certainty, it didn't take long to move on after the loss since you knew this team wasn't winning three in a row against the Angels and also, the Patriots played just minutes later at the Broncos.

There is no sport like baseball. With 162 regular season games, not to mention spring training and the playoffs, you spend way more time with your team than in any other sport. Like family, friends and co-workers, you get to know the players since you are right there for their ups, downs and everything in between.

Dustin Pedroia gave the Sox a 2-0 lead in the third with a two-run double. Victor Martinez knocked in Pedroia with an RBI single. Angels starter Scott Kazmir was on the ropes but he held on to go six innings. He allowed five runs on five hits with three walks and a strikeout.

In his postseason debut, Red Sox youngster Clay Buchholz pitched well given the circumstances. He went five innings, giving up two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Kendry Morales cranked a solo homer to right in the fourth to get the Angels on the board but J.D. Drew more than answered in the home half of the inning with a two-run bomb to dead center.

The Angels scored in the sixth on a double-play ball since they had the bases loaded.

Los Angeles' real damage started in the eighth as Papelbon was touched up for a two-run single by Juan Rivera which cut it to 5-4. Papelbon inherited the runners from Billy Wagner.

Pap got out of the eighth by picking off Reggie Willits and it really looked the Sox would survive as Mike Lowell's opposite field RBI single in the eighth made 6-4.

The Angels' rally in the ninth started with the bases empty, two outs and No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar at the plate. He singled, Chone Figgins walked, Bobby Abreu hit an RBI double, Torii Hunter was intentionally walked and Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run single, making up for a terrible series by him.

Papelbon was yanked in favor of Hideki Okajima and the Fenway Park crowd was stunned, the season was over. Boston went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth as Angels closer Brian Fuentes recorded his second save of the series.

The Yankees also advanced last night with a sweep of the Twins and they'll host the Angels in the ALCS beginning on Friday in what should be a great series.

The biggest question facing the Red Sox in the off-season is whether to re-sign Jason Bay. He's been a very durable, productive player and he deserves a big contract. Hopefully, another team (ie. the Mets) doesn't throw a ridiculous offer at him.

David Ortiz and Mike Lowell continue to rapidly age while Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek might not be back next season. The pieces are there for another great season and a better run in the playoffs. Josh Beckett wasn't himself for the second half of the season. Jon Lester was a rock and Buchholz finally showed his ability on a consistent basis in Boston.

Once the starting pitching fell apart in the middle of this season, this team's margin for error got smaller and smaller. Other than Bay and Kevin Youkilis, no other offensive player exceeded their expectations at the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury had 70 steals, Pedroia was very solid and Victor Martinez was a revelation after coming over from the Indians.

Papelbon is still good but there were plenty of signs during the season that something like yesterday was inevitable in a big moment. He's not Mariano Rivera, a robot that is impervious to age and still as unhittable as ever.

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