The Boston Red Sox were apparently as hurt as I was by their being perceived as the sneering villains of this year's ALCS, but their solution to the problem--to perform so terribly against the upstart Tampa Bay Rays as to reposition themselves as the underdogs they were a scant four years ago and thereby win back the hearts and minds of the general public beyond New England before staging a comeback--has to this point seemed rather dangerous, even to me. By the top half of the seventh inning during Game 5 Thursday night, it seemed downright psychotic.
I was disappointed when the Sox came up short in the marathon Game 2 on Sunday, but no Boston fan could complain too much about gaining a split on the road against a no-joke opponent. When the Red Sox decided to lay down their bats and allow their 2008 postseason ace to get shelled in Game 3, however, I began to grow concerned: wouldn't the Game 4 start of Human Batting Tee Tim Wakefield have been a better opportunity to drop a game at home?
Turns out that it was a spectacular opportunity, as the Rays unloaded for a 13-4 rout on Tuesday. It was at this point that I began to suspect that some of these Red Sox losses weren't intentional. Frankenstein's monster had broken out of the laboratory was wandering the countryside, drowning small children.
Nonetheless, there was a part of me that couldn't help but admire the Boston club's commitment to regaining underdog status by allowing themselves to be put in a 3-1 series hole, just like they were against the Indians last year and against the Yankees three years before that, that would require them to sweep all three remaining games to win the pennant.
That admiration had dissipated into utter disgust long before the middle of the seventh inning on Thursday, when the Red Sox were getting their asses handed to them (yet again), 7-0. Given that I am a Red Sox fan from birth (who is older than 5), I'm no stranger to seeing my team fail miserably...but I could little recall a game or a series when every member of the team looked for all the world like they just didn't give a shit--like failure was inevitable. That's exactly what the Red Sox looked like after the top half of the seventh during the do-or-die Game 5, facing a deficit that had never before been overcome in the history of the American League Championship Series.
They scored four runs, scored another three in the eighth, and tacked on one more in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, 8-7, and send the series back to Tampa.
So that happened.
Whether or not the Boston Red Sox are able to achieve the still-very-daunting task of winning the pennant, it's nice to once again be rooting for a team that cares...at least for one more game.