No more talk of payrolls. No more talk of deadline trades not made. No more talk of injuries. When you shine the cold light of reality on things it comes down to this: the people who were getting things done early in the year are no longer coming through. The big hit when you need it? Gone. The defensive gem to save a run? Missing. The balls-to-the-wall pitch from the bullpen with RISP? As distant as a childhood summer day. And it all comes to this – the Red Sox season rests squarely on the shoulders of David “Boomer” Wells.

Not because the Yankees lead in the East would be insurmountable. Not because the wild card would be out of reach. It is an issue of character. Of heart. Of balls. And to let the enemy enter your house and sweep a 5-game series says you have none of those. To watch Derek Jeter skip around like a schoolgirl after Timlin drills him in the elbow, then come through with a big hit is embarrassing. To let the modern day baseball Judas come in and humiliate his former team with his words and his bat is gutless. To let Giambi, self-proclaimed cheater, strut around the bases with grease dripping off his hair onto your sacred field is just plain ugly.

But who will stop them? They are like home invaders and the Sox have willingly handed over cash, jewels and credit cards. And oh-by-the-way why not have a turn with the wife and deflower the teenage daughter while you’re here? That nice car in the driveway? Sure, take it on your way out, we just filled the tank.

We listened to Bonnie Bernstein giddily tell us about Damon’s comments on Boston and New York. We listened to Joe Morgan talk about cutters and the Big Red Machines. We listened to Jon Miller bumble on incessantly about the K Zone. And we watched our team go down in flames again. A painful collection of sights and sounds. We watched Red Sox hitters letting Yankee pitchers off the hook with the chance to put the game away. We watched Red Sox pitchers unable to find that something extra to make one more good pitch. And we watched Francona lose confidence in his closer by bringing in Timlin and Lopez in the eighth.

And so, it all comes down to this. David Wells and every member of the Red Sox has to reach down and make sure they have a set between their legs, then go out on the field and prove it to us and to the Yankees. The 2004 team did it in October and there is no reason to believe this team can’t do it in August. As ugly as the final scores have been, the Sox have been in these games. They just haven’t been able to come up with the big hit or the big pitch to put it away. Today, they must. This is the regular-season equivalent of a must-win playoff game.

I truly believe the season is on the line and a loss will send the team into a worse tailspin than they’ve been in. The post-game interviews were as shocking as the game itself. They were a defeated group of players with fear in their eyes. But I also believe in redemption and renewal. And this team still has Papi and Manny and Youk and Lowell. They just need that spark, that something to light the fire. We need something of epic proportion: the glove sandwich, the bloody sock, the Steal. We need it today.