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article imageOp-Ed: Red Sox Back In Title Chase After Nailbiter At Fenway

By Johnny Simpson     Sep 23, 2008 in Sports
After beating the Cleveland Indians and presumed Cy Young winner Cliff Lee (22-3) in a squeaker at Fenway, the Red Sox enter the playoffs once again in pursuit of their first back-to-back titles since 1915-16. From 86-year famine to delicious feast. Yum!
From the Boston Red Sox homepage:
BOSTON -- With the thirst for postseason champagne lingering around the Red Sox for a second straight night, not even overwhelming American League Cy Young Award favorite Cliff Lee was going to prevent the corks from popping.
The Red Sox truly earned their 5-4 victory in this Tuesday night clinch contest against the Indians, getting to the normally dominant Lee for two runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
Now that they've solidified their fifth postseason berth in the past six years, the Red Sox can go about the business of trying to become Major League Baseball's first repeat World Series champions since the 2000 Yankees.
Though the Red Sox are still in contention for the American League East title, their most likely entry into the playoffs will be as the Wild Card winner, which would earn them a AL Division Series matchup with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a best-of-five set that would start in Anaheim on Oct. 1 or 2.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, the only player to be on Boston's past eight postseason entries dating back to 1995, earned the win, allowing six hits and four runs (all of which were scored in the fifth inning) over six innings. Wakefield walked one and struck out six.
Fittingly, Kevin Youkilis (two-run homer in the fourth) and Dustin Pedroia (two-run double in the fifth) provided two of the biggest hits of the night. They've been Boston's most consistent offensive players all season.
And it was equally appropriate that Jason Bay, who has been so productive since coming over in the trade for Manny Ramirez on July 31, drove in the go-ahead run, a two-out RBI single up the middle in the fifth.
Clinging to a 5-4 lead after reliever Manny Declarmen loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went to lefty Hideki Okajima to face Victor Martinez. And Okajima, amid a tense, eight-pitch at-bat, got Martinez to pop a 3-2 pitch to Youkilis to end the threat.
Jonathan Papelbon came on to escape a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth. He then navigated the ninth for save No. 41, giving the Fenway faithful good reason to erupt.
I know DJ Navin Vaswani of Toronto hates me for this, but I can't help myself. Can you blame a once-starving man for gorging himself whenever the table is spread now?
Not to get ahead of myself, for sure. The Red Sox will most likely enter the race as the Wild Card (as they did in 2004, when they won their first World Series title in 84 years) and would have to play the LA Angels, who have one of the best records in baseball, on the road.
Should they accomplish that feat, they might still have to face a dominant Tampa Bay Rays team with home field advantage. The Rays have the best home record in Baseball. The Red Sox are 1-7 on the road against Tampa Bay this year.
After that, it would be whomever emerges victorious from the National League. The possibilities are tantalizing.
Would it be the Cubbies, whose title drought goes back to 1908? Or could it possibly be the LA Dodgers with Manny Ramirez, who has been on a tear since leaving Boston and was the Red Sox' World Series MVP in 2004?
Yes, I see you smiling, Navin. Just remember that in the postseason, everyone is 0-0 to start. And even a 3-0 series lead isn't safe with the Sox. Just ask the 2004 Yankees.
Let the games begin!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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