Well, this is what it’s all about. The Tampa Bay Rays trailing the Boston Red Sox by four games in the AL Wildcard, travel to Fenway Park for a four game series that will go a long way in deciding who will make the playoffs. To give us some insight into the Red Sox perspective on this series, I asked Derek Stykalo, of the Fansided site BoSox Injection, two key questions in this Quick Facts Doubleheader. You can find my thoughts on the series and other things Rays/Red Sox related in a Series Six-Pack over on BoSox Injection.
What do the Red Sox have to do to win this series?
– The Red Sox have to do two things. First, they need good pitching, starting with Josh Beckett. We know what the Rays starters will bring and for the most part the Red Sox starters have to answer and at least keep the games close. Second, they have to continue to hit as they’ve done over the past two games against Toronto. They tore the cover off the ball on Tuesday, thanks in part to character performances by Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and they’ll need those two guys to be instrumental and lead by example. Sudden injuries (although they’re listed as day-to-day) to both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez along with an ailing Kevin Youkilis, create a lot of question marks about the lineup and the lack of power. Pedey and Ells will need support from the cast of Marco Scutaro, Josh Reddick, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the veteran Jason Varitek. It sounds like I’m asking for a lot, but given the lack of offense last week at the Trop, things have to click for the Red Sox or it could be a very tight Wild Card race come Monday morning.
What’s the mood among Red Sox Nation right now: panic, optimism, slight concern?
– I’ll back up a bit and go through the past three days. On Monday it was sheer panic. Fans were calling for Francona’s head, asking Epstein to be fired or have him blow up the team in the offseason and start from scratch. Suddenly, an 18-6 thrashing of Toronto on Tuesday and the fans were again put to ease and it was a mild form of concern with the lead on Tampa back up to 4 games. After the sudden loss to Toronto, thanks again to a Daniel Bard implosion, I can hear the fans starting to panic again. Bard has now created a great deal of uncertainty in the bullpen; a bullpen that was lights out for the better part of two months. He clearly has little confidence and Red Sox Nation now has zero confidence in him. He could be called upon during this series to come into a tight game and need to get three outs. If you listen real carefully, you’ll be able to hear the Nation collectively hold their breath. It sounds harsh and crazy that the Red Sox fans would ping pong with their moods in the matter of days, but hey, we’re Red Sox fans. We went through 86 years of heartbreak and tragedy, so when the team is winning we don’t want to relapse into those horrid feelings. I wouldn’t want to be around on Monday if the Sox lose this series.