The seed of doubt was planted back in July when Keith Foulke blew three saves in a two-week period. The roots never took and, as it happens in baseball, all was forgotten. In late September, when you want it the least, doubt is growing like a weed. Foulke blew his second save in as many nights, and for the third consecutive game gave up a home run. His post-All-Star ERA, traditionally lower for Foulke than his first half ERA, is almost two points higher this year. He’s given up 6 of his 8 homeruns since the break as well. Will you start pouring bubbly, secure in the knowledge of a win, when he walks out of the bullpen in a one-run game in the ninth?
Also, for the second night in a row, Foulke’s teammates saved him a worse media lynching by coming up big to win the game. The hero-du-jour was Orlando Cabrera. His 12th inning round-tripper inched the Sox closer to the Yankees and further from the other would-be Wild Card teams. It was refreshing to see him rounding the bases, his eyes shifting to the celebration waiting for him at the plate, as he tried to suppress a grin. A great moment for him and the fans.
With the Yankees rally falling short in the ninth and the Angels getting smacked down by Seattle, the Sox have ratcheted up the intensity on the upcoming showdown at Fenway. For a fleeting moment it looked like the Sox were ready to settle for the Wild Card, but that has passed. All eyes must be on the division – the Wild Card is already in hand, that pressure is off – time to go for it.
There is more at stake than just the satisfaction of beating a rival – home field would be huge for this team. Look at their home-away splits.
Look at their troubles in the dome. Damon can’t catch a routine fly ball there and Lowe’s ERA is almost three points higher on turf than on grass. Don’t fall into the trap that they are playing just for the pleasure of catching and passing the Yankees, they are trying to put themselves in the best possible situation to get to the World Series. The best way to do that is to play as many post-season games as possible at Fenway.