Just think, if Josh Beckett only threw 39 pitches in that notorious side session a few weeks ago, maybe the Sox wouldn’t have been in a mess last night.
It’s an understatement to say that the Ace wasn’t himself last night. However, the biggest shocker wasn’t Beckett’s performance.
If ever there is a bad time to leave in a hurt pitcher, it's the playoffs. This win was vital to the Sox.
If they had won in Tampa last night, they would be in perfect position to take the series in the next three games: Game 3 with Lester and Game 5 with Matzusaka (in Fenway no less).
Beckett stayed in a third of an inning too long in the fifth when he gave up Longoria’s RBI line-drive to left field. There was no reason Beckett should have pitched past the fourth inning.
Leaving an ineffective Beckett in to pitch wasn’t the most startling decision. I was truly perplexed when Javier Lopez came trotting out to the mound in the fifth inning.
Ever since the playoff roster was set for the ALDS, it was understood that Paul Byrd was on the roster for one purpose: long relief.
It was this situation in Game 2 that he was hand-picked for when Wakefield beat him out for the spot in the rotation.
Instead of saving his bullpen for another day, Francona brought in Lopez, Delcarmen, Okajima, and Masterson all before the ninth inning, when we witness yet another mind-boggler.
Francona has stated that in extra-inning games, he likes to hold Papelbon for the big save. This time Pap came in the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings. He does his job.
Then Mike Timlin comes in and gives up the winning run.
Nobody can judge what went on in Francona’s mind when he stuck with Beckett for another third of an inning, or when he brought the entire bullpen to pitch in Game 2. It’s reasonable to ask: “Can you really blame him?”
The bats were absolutely on fire that night, including Pedroia’s two home runs, which were certainly better late than never in this postseason.
The Skipper could have been thinking, “Really, how many runs can this team score off of Beckett, no matter how badly he’s pitching?”
Plus, Game 3 was still two days away. The bullpen would rest for two days. Lester will probably throw another gem at Fenway through seven or eight innings, allowing most of the bullpen to rest for a third day, etc.
But couldn’t this all have been avoided if he just brought Paul Byrd, a reliable, long reliever?
Plus, Francona has pointed out that these two teams know each other cold.
Tampa hasn’t faced Byrd since Aug. 17, 2007.
So please, somebody inform me if Paul Byrd recently rolled off of his hotel bed onto broken glass, because all I’ve heard since September is how useful he will be in the bullpen come October.
Had Francona brought in Byrd, Tampa may have been put to a stop. It’s just that this win would have put the Sox in a position to take the series in five games. The Sox could have had the edge.
Now it’s anyone’s game.