Ever since George Steinbrenner put Tim Tschida on the payroll back in the 1999 ALCS, I’ve been suspicious of umps making egregiously shitty calls in the postseason. And a couple of last night’s gems — especially that safe call at first by CB Bucknor when Youk clearly nailed the runner — were so outrageously bad, they had me wondering aloud if the Sox were mere pawns in a Nick Adenhart memorial conspiracy. Factor in a strike zone that was conspicuously tighter for Lester than Mouthbreather Lackey and I was ready to put down my beer and get Oliver Stone on the case. But I do so much hate to put down my beer. So I just shrugged, showed the TV my ass, and kept on watching.

In the clarity of the morning sun, as much as I’d like to pin this one on the umps, I can’t. The Sox were manhandled by John Lackey, mustering a pathetic four hits and looking absolutely helpless at the plate, what with Ellsbury, Youk, V-Mart, Ortiz and Lowell delivering a combined 0-for-17. 0-for 17? In the playoffs? Christ, people get kicked out of the Pinewood Derby with those kinds of numbers. And even though it was hardly one of Lester’s best playoff performances, once the parade of relievers began — including Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito, who are contractually required to surrender at least one run per appearance — I was begging for Terry to go Byrd on us and just burn this thing to the ground.

It was a big win for the Angels, who have yet to get that “owned by Boston” sign off their front lawn. Hell, to hear them tell it in the LA press today, the worm has already turned:

“One of these days,” said Morales, a relative newcomer to this October rivalry, “the story had to change.”

As Sox fans, all we can do is shake this one off, although it makes tonight’s game a must win. If we can rally behind Beckett, it suddenly becomes a best-of-three series with the next two games at Fenway. And I gotta tell you, I like those odds.

How ’bout you? Still got the faith? Sound off and let me know.