A great win. An offensive explosion. Timely hitting not seen since… well, not since Mueller’s game-winning home run off Rivera several weeks ago.

This was one of Francona’s better line-ups, although I wish he’d found a way to start the Hebrew Hammer, who is en fuego as the hipsters say. It looked something like this:

Damon

Minty

Manny

Ortiz

El Bencho

Tek

Cabrera

Mueller

Youkilis

The big guns were all but unaccounted for. Manny, who may or not be the latest victim of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx (as if we were the type of folks who’d believe in curses), returned to the line-up to go 0-for-4. He was in good company, as Damon and Minty also pulled 0-fers (so there you have your first three hitters posting an 0-for-12). Luckily, the bottom half of the line-up found its collective groove, with Tek, Ortiz and Mueller each getting a coupla hits.

Is it the start of something? A winning streak, perhaps. At this point in the season, I’m not gonna focus on that. All I know is that for all their lackluster play, the Sox are just a half game out of the Wild Card standings. To paraphrase Malcolm X, I just wanna see these guys make the playoffs by any means necessary, and I think they’ve got a damn good shot. At some point, these guys have to bring their A game, right? Right?

If they fall short of a World Series title, Francona’s gone. Although as this season plods along, I have less confidence in John Henry & crew. Their plan to string all of the guys in their contract years along — force them to sing for their supper, essentially — backfired miserably. Worse, the havoc this strategy has wreaked on the likes of D-Lowe, last seen dressing squirrels in little hats and tuxedos on the Boston Common, has tainted this season of underachievement. Nomar’s gone, and a small part of me can’t help but wonder if their master plan is to let ‘em all walk — Lowe, Tek and Petey — and go into rebuilding mode for 2005.