They’re going to kill me, these bullpen peoples.

In 2005, every pitch from Keith Foulke has been a top-down, balls-out ride on the Holy Christ! Express. No lead is safe. No out is guaranteed. When he is on the hill, the diminutive become the Bunyanesque.

In the 2004 playoffs, the guy was nails. Remember that strike out of Tony Clark to end Game 6 of the ALCS? Any other year, any other pitcher, Clark strokes a game-winning homer. Simple as that. But not in 2004.

This year of title defense has proven quite different, sadly. Suddenly, we’re channelling the ghosts of Heathcliff Slocumb, John Wasdin and Ron Mahay.

Last night’s game started out ominously enough, with Cleveland putting up three runs before we’d even downed our first beer. And suddenly Grady Sizemore’s punk-ass comment about coming to Boston to “repay the favor” was becoming eerily prescient. But then the sixth inning happened, and the Tenacious O kicked in. And in a ruthless, relentless display, the Sox uncorked six hits and plated five runs. When the dust settled, it was the Injuns on the business end of an 8-5 score.

At least until the Keith Foulke Show in the bottom of the eighth. Instantly, he let in two runs [charged to Timlin] before finally closing the inning and sending us to the ninth with a precariously slim 8-7 lead. In the ninth… dudes, so we even want to talk about it? Just a depressing, balls-in-the-meatgrinder kind of inning, as Foulke gives up two walks, three hits, and five runs — the bulk of them coming on a line drive grand slam by Travis Hafner that had the entire city scratching its collective head, wondering what in f–k hill they’d just witnessed. I still don’t believe it actually happened. Did I dream it? Perhaps I did. Must be the drugs. Of course, had the umpire been watching the game going on in front of him and not some other, alternate-universe game on a tiny TV transmitter lodged in his brain, Foulke might have gotten a few of those calls.

I don’t believe I’m being Johnny Downer when I say that this was the most disheartening, spirit-flushing, take-your-foam-hand-and-stick-it-up-a-horse’s-ass loss of the 2005 season. The kind of loss that had me actually dialing sports radio just for the opportunity to vent. To rage against the bullpen machine. To shake my fist at imaginary ghosts and say, “Back, Slocumb, you virulent pest! Back into the past where you belong.”

Anyway, I still man the good ship Happiness, so I say file it away, move it on over. We’ll get ‘em this afternoon.

Also: Aaron Boone and Johnny Knoxville… separated at birth?

Lastly, I’m not a football fan by any stretch… but this is clearly tantamount to World War Three.