It had all started so well. The Sox arrived in St Petersburg after a short bus ride from Fenway South, with a 22-9 record in the pre-season. They were looking good. And they continued to do so for seven and half innings. Sale was awesome, nine strike-outs, six shut-out innings. The hitting was fine. A Laurel and Hardy moment in the Rays’ outfield gave Nunez an inside-the-park home run. Barnes pitched a 1-2-3.
To be honest, it was all pretty routine. A good day at the office. What could possibly go wrong?
Pretty much everything. This is why we watch sport, because you couldn’t predict what happened. No-one could expect the implosion that followed, not even the Red Sox Nation, and we’ve seen it all over the years.
Kelly couldn’t throw a strike. He walked three. Carson Smith was no better, unable to get what he’s paid for, ground ball double plays rather than the triple that he did manage. Suddenly, we had conceded six runs. All the walks came home to roost. Why was the outfield so shallow?
Should Cora have called up young Bobby Poyner, a lefty but someone who has never pitched outside of Double A? Should he have brought in Kimbrel, the best closer in the MLB who he had talked about using in non-save situations?
By the time he had Poynter warming up, it was too late. We’d lost the game. Kimbrel never got up from the bench.
So far, so Red Sox. Defeat from the jaws of victory. Criticism of the coach for in-game decisions. Relief pitchers blowing a lead. It’s happened before, back on Opening Day 2003, against the same club. The same 4-0 lead from Pedro. The same final score. I remember it well, as I will remember this Opening Day.
But there are 161 games to go. And I like the look of the Town Nine this year. I’ve watched a fair number of the Spring Training games, and although I have to keep telling myself that it is only Spring Training, the record was good and the way we won those 22 games was even better.
I know that I will have issues with some of Cora’s decisions. It’s all pretty obvious from where I’m sitting, on my sofa, with a glass of wine at hand. It’s a great deal harder from the dugout.
Kelly has never walked more than two in his whole career. Smith will get his command back. Cora had every right to expect better than they gave him.
So do we.
And we’ll get it. We have a powerful line-up. We have a great defense. When they’re all fit, we have a great rotation. And we have JD.
What could possibly go wrong?
Today from the everysmith vaults: The Dead on their first 'trip' to the UK and a crazy weekend at the Hollywood Festival outside Newcastle under Lyme. I've had a couple of AUDs for a while, but this is primarily SBD and it seems that the sound guys managed to keep their heads while all around them (including me) were losing theirs!