That Manny cameo in the ninth was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in some time. Looking as casual as a guy about to shoot a guest spot on The Love Boat, Manny sashayed to the plate, calmly watched three pitches go by — at least two of which looked ripe for depositing in the Atlantic Ocean — then ambled back to the dugout. Was it some form of silent protest? Was he that upset about being inserted into the game on a “night off”? Did he, like most of use, feel that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was just a horrific blemish on the original trilogy and chose that specific moment to bodily convey his disapproval? More importantly, why the f@#k did he have the night off to begin with? When our line-up is already Papi-free, we’re gonna need a little more than Casey and Coco to set opposing pitchers trembling in their space boots.

It all underscores how much we’re missing the Large Father. For a brief period of time, with Drew beating the tar off the baseball and Manny going all bananas after swatting his 500th home run, it looked like we might just be able to squeak through Papi’s absence. No longer. We need his bat in the line-up like Rob Schneider needs Adam Sandler-especially with that gaping and ever-widening hole at the bottom of our line up. In all seriousness, at this point, you could replace All Star Jason Varitek, Coco Crisp or The Looger with three hatracks and/or Peter Tork and get similar if not slightly better results.

This is the sort of crankiness that sets in after a maddeningly awful road trip is punctuated by a game on ESPN. As someone pointed out in the gamethread comments, a loss is bad enough; a loss after you’ve had to endure four hours of Joe Morgan and Jon Miller is like a form of torture. Why can’t ESPN offer alternate audio tracks, kinda like a DVD, enabling viewers to choose from either the actual commentating or something a little less aurally offensive, like squealing breaks, an iron glove on a chalkboard, or Stephen Hawking reading all the Frank Booth dialogue from Blue Velvet?

Anyway, we’re back home tonight. And we never needed it more.