Red Sox’ Sixth-Inning Breakdown an Apt Metaphor for Fast-Unravelling Season

Red Sox' Sixth-Inning Breakdown an Apt Metaphor for Fast-Unravelling Season
Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

It was just a routine, sixth-inning back-to-the-box ground ball which should have yielded an inning-ending double play.

Baltimore Orioles star center fielder Adam Jones hit a one-bouncer right back to Red Sox starter Aaron Cook with one out and runners at second and third, a boon for Boston which should have gotten them out of the inning still holding a 2-1 advantage. First, Cook turned to his right, then hesitated, and spun back around to his left, facing the second base bag as both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles converged around the base.

In what looked to be a second hesitation, Cook double-clutched before sending the ball sailing to the far left field side of the bag, allowing J.J. Hardy to score — tying the game at two runs apiece. Nate McLouth was able to get all the way to third while Jones reached first base safely. More importantly, the inning would continue and the Birds would score three more times, taking a 5-2 lead that felt pretty insurmountable.

Cook had even pitched 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball and seemed to be cruising right along — until the wheels came off oh-so suddenly.

"Great five innings, and was basically out of the sixth and the ground ball that got back to him," said Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the 5-3 loss. "But we didn't execute the play and would up giving up some runs. … Every loss is tough, there's no doubt about that."

Red Sox' Sixth-Inning Breakdown an Apt Metaphor for Fast-Unravelling SeasonCook would give up an RBI ground-rule double to Matt Wieters before being pulled. Later in the inning, Mark Reynolds would continue to hurt the Sox — after launching two home runs Tuesday — by doubling in the Orioles' fourth and fifth runs.

It wasn't just the clear turning point in the game, but it felt like a complete breakdown for the Red Sox, who, despite being only three runs back, just never felt like they were in the game from that point forward. It was also an apt metaphor for a season which has turned beyond the Red Sox' control, and is unravelling right before our eyes — and just like the sixth inning, it's a palpable experience.

If Cook calmly turns and throws a strike to second base — whether or not the two players converging on the bag distracted him — the inning is over, the Red Sox maintain their lead and we may well not be having this conversation right now.

Just like the Sox seemed to lose all control of the game during that five-run frame, the team likewise seems to have lost all control over its season. Rather than playing up to their individual abilities and simply getting the expected performances out of the players they count on, every game and every day seems to feature some new hiccup that costs Boston a win on the field, or takes their focus off of the diamond to who knows where.

The late-game ejections highlight the frustration, and the degree to which the team is acting on that frustration rather than staying within themselves. It's been said many times throughout the season that 'this loss hurts,' but, realistically, this was the breaking point — despite Valentine's expert question-dodging, this was not just another loss.

So, as went the sixth inning in Wednesday night's loss, so goes the Red Sox' season.

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