Not the First Time Red Sox Have Seen Yankee Heartbreak


Aug 10, 2009

Not the First Time Red Sox Have Seen Yankee Heartbreak They choked.

The Red Sox were within striking distance of first place in the American League East, just 2 1/2 games off the pace, and the stars were aligned for a huge weekend series in the Bronx that would decide their fates. They had their chance to chase down the Yankees and reclaim division supremacy. They had their chance, and they choked.

And it's not the first time.

A quick reintroduction to the history books indicates that the Red Sox have been here before. You've all seen this happen. If you're past your 30th birthday, you've probably seen it twice. This is why it hurts to be a Red Sox fan. Even after 2004, even after all that baloney about reversing curses, it all comes back to this. The Red Sox have had way too many disappointing episodes like this one in their history.

Let's start with the original. Not the original Boston Massacre, mind you, but the first time the term was used in a baseball context. That would be 1978, and any Sox fan worth his or her salt can recall what happened then.

Flash back to Sept. 7 of '78. The Yankees ride into Boston just four games back of the Red Sox — they're riding high after taking two of three from Seattle and three of four from Detroit, and they're now within striking distance. The Sox are slumping.

What follows is a series for the history books — the Yanks win the four games 15-3, 13-2, 7-0 and 7-4, completely wiping the Red Sox out of first place. The Red Sox were outscored 42-9 and outhit 67-21. They committed 12 errors. Willie Randolph, of all people, goes 8-for-16 in the series, scoring five runs and driving in six. In the third game, Ron Guidry pitches a complete-game shutout against the pathetic Red Sox, allowing just two singles.

The Sox kept things close the rest of the season, even forcing a one-game playoff by sweeping the Blue Jays in the final weekend, but the Yanks had the last laugh. Bucky "Bleeping" Dent and Reggie Jackson each homered in the late innings of the teams' 163rd game on Oct. 2, and the Yankees won 5-4. After leading the AL East by 14 games in July, the Red Sox were going home early. The Yankees went on to win the World Series.

Then, in 2006, it happened again.

Dan Shaughnessy called it "Son of Massacre weekend." The Red Sox went to bed on Aug. 16 feeling comfortable — they were two games back of the Yankees and right in the thick of the wild-card race. Then the Yanks came to town, and everything changed.

The Sox were depleted by injuries. Jason Varitek needed knee surgery. Tim Wakefield had a fractured rib. Jon Lester had just been in a car accident — and he was weeks away from being diagnosed with lymphoma. There were literally a dozen more injured Red Sox: Manny Ramirez, Keith Foulke, Kevin Youkilis, Trot Nixon … and the list just went on, and on, and on.

There was a sneaking suspicion that weekend that the Red Sox were in trouble. And when the Yankees opened the five-game series at Fenway by sweeping a day-night doubleheader, that suspicion only grew deeper. But the Red Sox kept losing — in every way imaginable.

On Friday, they lost a blowout. Josh Beckett gave up nine runs and was knocked out in the sixth. The Yankees stormed to a 13-5 victory. On Saturday, the Sox dropped a heartbreaker as Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada each homered in the 10th inning off of Craig Hansen as New York took an 8-5 decision. On Sunday, the Sox lost a pitchers' duel — the late Cory Lidle pitched six scoreless and beat David Wells, with the Yanks winning by a 2-1 final.

The Sox' deficit had gone from two games to seven. Hope had been replaced by hopelessness.

The Red Sox have been in this position before, and it's never worked out well for them. But just because the worst-case scenario has hit Boston before, that doesn't mean it's time to panic this time around.

The Red Sox are far from finished. They enter this week in first place in the AL wild-card standings, tied with a flawed Texas team and 1 1/2 games ahead of the equally flawed Rays.

Ultimately, all that matters is sneaking into the postseason by any means possible. And the Red Sox are in a perfectly good position to do that.

This past weekend was bad for the Red Sox. Very bad. But it's far from the last word on 2009 — there's a lot of season left.

This one ain't over 'til it's over.

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