Haven’t we learned by now that it’s not going to be easy? That we’re not going to wrap up the division in a neat little box sometime next week, so we can turn our attention to setting up the playoff rotation and working on our collection of rare Quarterflash recordings? This is the Red Sox, bubee. They’re going to make us grind out each game like a cheese grater to yer underplums.

Case in point: Last night, for the second straight evening, a Sox starter appears to go tits-up after just a couple innings. This time it was Wakefield who got tagged for five runs by the third, including three home runs. But just as we’re ready to count him out, dude turns it around and throws five scoreless innings. And something occured to me as I watched him strike out four D-Rays in a row: If the playoffs started tomorrow, I’d start Wakey in Game One. [Actually, I'd really like to start Bruno Kirby, that little fireplug from the first City Slickers movie. Tell me he wouldn't be an imposing figure on the hill. Not wearing a uniform, but a shirt and tie, sleeves rolled up to reveal alarmingly hirsute arms, and that moustache and New York accent in effect. "Hey, let's see you hit this one, buddy." Bam! Then he throws at the guy's ass. Oh, that'd be sweet. I don't let the fact that Kirby doesn't even play pro baseball deny me this fantasy. I never thought I'd see the Sox win the Series, either.]

Meanwhile, El Bencho becomes Great Mazinga, belting two home runs — one a thunderous jolt off the Coke bottles — and driving in three. Best of all, we got the post-game Millar press conference, during which he discussed his latest dye job and new shaving techniques. He also used the phrase “Holy Cannoli.” Twice. I hope someone is taping these press conferences for an end-of-the-season compilation DVD. Seriously, between this and the recent Wells bit, how long is it until Tito starts transmitting his postgame comments via marionette?

Interestingly, prior to the game, Millar threw out the olive branch to fans who’ve been riding his ass, delivering another one of his “state of Red Sox Nation” addresses which, like those in seasons past, can be summed up as: “Sorry I’ve been sucking. Please don’t remind me that I’m sucking. I’m working on my latest ‘suck cessation’ program and will keep you apprised of the results.”

Look, we all know that it’s not gonna be our pitching that pulls us through the postseason. There really are no “sure things” on the mound this year, no one we can point to and say, “Okay, in a four game series, we know we’ve at least got this game.” What’s going to keep us rolling is that offense. That relentless, pile-it-on-ya-like-deli-meat attack that — especially with Edgah! pulling a Frampton Comes Alive and Mueller heating up — just keeps. coming. at. you. If Millar can turn it on and be a part of the juggernaut, then it’s all good times and bunnies and keg stands with Kelly the Ball Girl. I’d still prefer The Magic Helmet at first all the time, but I’m interested to see what El bencho brings tonight.

Speaking of tonight, if there’s anyone who needs to channel their inner Emeril and kick it up a notch, it’s Bronson Arroyo. Here’s hoping he can take a cue from Millar and scrounge up a bit of that 2004 magic. And I can’t wait for the press conference.