Well, with Red off wrestling Polar Bears or Penguins, or whatever the hell lives in Calgary, I had hoped to spend the week talking about Hilary Swank or my paper weight collection while the Sox got their rotation in order and rested up for October. Instead, I sit here with my fingernails chewed down to the second knuckle staring at the standings in the AL East. And as the Hennessy-induced fog lifts on this Monday, it is becoming painfully clear that the Red Sox could be leaf-peeping by Columbus Day if things don’t get better quickly.
Tim Wakefield: Something is wrong. The dude went from 22 straight scoreless innings to giving up 21 runs in his last 17-and-two-thirds over his last four starts. Face facts, when Timmy loses to the Rays, a team he has treated like the new guy on the cell block throughout his career, he cannot be on the post-season roster.
Manny Ramirez: No Manny, no World Series. The Sox have done OK with a patchwork line-up in Manny’s absence, but against post-season pitching, hitters will be exposed and Ortiz and Lowell will be pitched around consistently. That leaves it up to the likes of JD Drew and Jason Varitek to come up with the big hits. These guys are the automatic transmission of the Red Sox: no clutch. They are hitting .194 and .167 with RISP and two out.
Kevin Youkilis: The Sox are 2-5 since Youk went down with the injury. They need to get him back in the line-up and return Hinske to his designated spot on the bench. If guys like Ortiz and Tek are the heart and soul of this team, Youk is the balls. He makes every play in the field and adds that intense, mildly insane, batter to the line-up.
The Bullpen: Time to get down to it, boys. Once the calendar flips to October, there are a lot of guys in the ‘pen that need to understand their new role: mop-up duty and emergency 15-inning game reliever. If your name isn’t Delcarmen, Okajima or Papelbon, bring a good book to the playoff games.
This is it, folks. The last week of the season and the division up for grabs. The Sox are in the post-season regardless, but I doubt they will be the heavy favorite they were a month ago. Beckett and Schilling in the first two games, then what? We need the post-season 2004 Manny in the line-up, we need Youk and his magic facial hair in the line-up. We need April Okajima, and someone to step up as third starter. The Yankees could make it a one-game lead tonight. Strap in and stock up on Pepto, it’s on.