You’re in the heat of a pennant race. Your lead in the division has been sliced Kate Moss-thin. You’ve already lost the season series to your arch-rivals (meaning if we end up in a tie, they get the East by default). And you’re dangerously close to squandering a fourteen and a half game advantage and slipping into the Wild Card Zone. You’ve got a one-run lead against a .500 team in the eighth inning, having lost three of your last five. You get two quick outs, but then your pitcher, a pitcher whose performance has been anything but solid since his acquisition, loads the bases on two walks and a solid single to left. With the Yanks flattening Baltimore, who at this point have slipped into full-on “Ned Beatty in Deliverance” mode, you need one out more than Chris Walken needs more cowbell. So what do you do?

We know what Tit-o did. He left Gagne in, and The Canadian Loyalist promptly walked in the tying run, then served up a double to the mighty Russ Adams, ensuring our third straight loss and securing his place in the “Punch My Nuts for Free” booth in the carnival of every Red Sox fan’s mind.

So who do we blame for this loss? Well, here are your suspects:

Terry Francona: After last Friday’s debacle, is Tito suddenly gunshy about bringing in the Papel-Bot? Was he envisioning some Wes Craven-inspired scenario in which the Bot tries to get that final out, but instead surrenders a grand slam, then gets eaten by mutant hillbillies? In the big picture, Tito was probably making his case for leaving Gagne off the post-season roster, assuming we’ll actually be making a post-season roster, and assuming Gagne isn’t drugged, bagged and duct-taped to the side of a train bound for Venus before that.

Eric Gagne: The guy’s a Canadian, and we’re playing the Blue Jays. You smell a rat? If he’s not on Steinbrenner’s secret payroll (the one that helped Ramiro Mendoza buy his own island), then he’s clearly Stephen Harper’s crafty minion, charged with ruining the Sox’ postseason chances and allowing the Yankees to win the World Series, ensuring the utter collapse of all things good and true, the end of America as we know it, and the return of Steve Guttenberg.

The Red Sox’ Alleged Offense: After that dressing-down of the Yankees last Saturday, we’ve scored all of seven runs across the last 27 innings — lackluster production for a team trying to seal up the division. While the Yankees have turned it on, churning out the runs like Rob Schneider turns out shitty movies, our guys are in danger of getting swept by the Blue Jays. The truth is, with Manny out, everyone grabbing a bat after Mike Lowell in the line-up is questionable.

Manny Ramirez: Is he hurt? Is he okay? Is he just kinda enjoying the fact that he gets a nice cozy seat in the corner of the dugout and doesn’t have those pesky at-bats to take him away from his Pac-Man? My DNA prevents me from speaking ill of Manny, but for f@#k’s sake, we’ve lost four one-run games over the past nine days that his bat might have prevented. I can only hope he’s storing up some extra “awesome” for the playoffs. Yeah, he probably is.

Mark McGrath: The guy was the lead singer of Sugar Ray, and now he’s one of the hosts of Extra. Surely these crimes cannot go unpunished. I blame him.

And I have to ask, why not play Royce Clayton at least one of these games in Toronto? The guy’s a former Blue Jay who got uncermoniously cut last August, and would probably relish the chance to play a little “look what you gave up on” with his former team. Can we get him at least one at bat?

Anyway, here’s Mike Nesmith singing “Rio.”