More than a chill in Boston air
UPDATE, 3:35: Interesting aside to last night's broken-bat break for the Rays - Sox batting coach Dave Magadan, a Tampa native, once had a similar thing happen to him when he played for the Mets in 1991. ESPN's Gordon Edes has the story.
DEVELOPING: There is a chill in the air in Boston, where temperatures are expected to drop into the 40s tonight. But that isn't the only reason baseball fans are shaking as the Rays have jolted Red Sox Nation to the edge of full panic.
With Thursday's win - and its fortuitous roots - the Rays moved to within three games of the Sox, and the feeling around Fenway last night was that if the Rays win again tonight the threat becomes very real, albeit with only 12 more games to play.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked after Thursday's game how much belief the Rays really had they could pull this off.
"Sufficient,'' he said. "It should be enough. We've played them well. We should be able to get it right now, and understand we can do this. We've earned the right to be confident goign into the game (tonight). Let's use it in a positive way.''
The Rays picking up some believers, too. ESPN's Buster Olney, in his Insider blog, wrote today: "The simple fact is that right now, the Rays are a better team than Boston, and it's really not even close.'' And Fox's Ken Rosenthal, who was at Thursday's game,wrote there has to be some doubt about the Sox: "Reality is coming. The Red Sox will make the playoffs. I think.''
The Rays have won six straight against the Red Sox, and 10 of the 15 games overall this season, including five of six at Fenway. The key has been their pitching, which has held Boston's hitters to a .178 average, their lowest againts an opponent since hitting .204 against Baltimore in 1966.
After saying following last weekend's sweep that it was time for the Red Sox to panic, DH David Ortiz preached a little patience Thursday.
“Just hang in there,’’ he said. “Just hang in there and let’s see what happens in the next 13 games.’’
The Sox have lost seven of eight and 9 of 11, and looked bad in doing so. Injuries continue to be an issue, with 3B Kevin Youkilis (hip, sports hernia) leaving Thursday's game and not expected to play tonight. Ortiz (back) and Adrian Gonzalez (calf) have been playing through injuries, and tonight's starter, Josh Beckett, is coming back from an ankle injury.
"You’re throwing everything you’ve got (at them) right now,’’ Ortiz said. “Youkilis is playing injured. I went out there today and I wasn’t 100 percent. You saw another guy, Gonzy, he went out there after his leg tightened up on him. You can do no more than that. That’s why you don’t see no one trying to shut it down right now, because we know we need to win some games.
"That’s why you see myself and others playing through injuries, because we know we’re running out of time.’’