I think we've all been eyeballing this moment for some time now. Julian Tavarez, heretofore known as The Jeep, has taken the mantle from Rudy Seanez. Tavarez is now the Anti-Christ, while Seanez is relegated to nickname purgatory, just another aging mediocre reliever we hope not to notice.
Seanez, who at the beginning of the season was so appallingly awful that I bled from eyes watching him pitch, has actually put together a 10-game stretch with an RA of 2.00 (although obviously he pimped Pauley for the Yankee loss in another game where the bats quit). Tavarez, on the other hand, has an RA of 7.36 in the same time frame, and causes the average Sox fan to self-mutilate each time he warms up. So, he is now the New and Improved Anti-Christ. See below:
The annoying thing about Tavarez's role in the debacle (and by role I mean "chief executor") is that given his craptacular performances over the past couple of weeks, wouldn't you have rather seen ANYONE ELSE on the mound to close out a one-run game? Seriously.
Looking back, there were two plateaus of knowledge in the bottom of the 12th tonight. The first occurred when The New and Improved Anti-Christ took the mound, and you knew the Sox had lost. The second occurred when he loaded the bases, and you knew the Sox had lost with great ignominy, via a rookie grand slam. This second plateau was infinitely more painful, watching and waiting for Kubel to hit it out. And there was no doubt in my mind that he would hit it out.
So, in the past 72 hours the Sox have lost a game to John "Way-Back" Wasdin (I can't decide, but I think this is less palatable; I mean at least Santana pitched tonight), and lost on a walk-off granny in a game during which they struck out 16 times. Statisticians who don't believe in the concept of "clutch" must be ecstatic right now - Manny and Papi combined for an 0-10 line with 6 Ks between them. Only Crisp's 0-6 with 2 Ks and 7 LOB compares.
The silver lining, again, was Schilling's simply massive performance on the mound for the Sox. He doesn't make batters look ridiculous like Santana can, but this was just him stepping up and saying "you know what, you guys can't hit this kid, fine - I'll keep you in it". Just amazing. he deserved better, but certainly Santana deserved the win too, so basically they're both in the same boat. Well, almost. Tomorrow Santana gets to say "at least we got the win", while Curt gets to say "I don't know what the hell is wrong with this team - they suck".
Right now, that is a very real problem. This team kind of sucks. It's getting painful, and it's unnecessary. There is more than enough talent in this lineup to score enough runs to win, even with their ofttimes terrible pitching staff. But they just don't do it. At some point Tito is going to have to kick these guys in the ass.
Regardless, unless a late-season youth movement is far more successful than anyone could predict, it appears this team just might not be prepared to go to the playoffs. New York refuses to give ground despite their injuries, Toronto is for real, Detroit and Chicago are obviously damn good, and really the Sox are a team that just doesn't win games they should. According to their expected win percentage they should be 33-29 right now instead of 36-27, and if that normalizes over the course of the year, they are looking at somewhere in the vicinity of 87 wins. That won't get it done, most likely.
Now, there is a ton of baseball left to be played, and truth be told the Red Sox teams of the past 4-5 years have limped into the All-Star break, including the 2004 team. So the sky is not exactly falling, but it's pretty safe to say there are some storm clouds on the horizon.
The fun part of the Olde Hometown Team going into a funk is all the wild imaginings about the younger guys down on the farm. Lester, Hansen, Pedroia, Murphy - at any moment one of them could ride in like young Jon Papelbon and save the day! And that would be great, and maybe it'll happen. Right now it's a sub-plot that's enjoyable to watch and on which we speculate over beers at the local watering hole. Pretty much just like everything else about baseball season.
I guess that's why even when your team loses on a rookie granny in the bottom of the 12th, with the Anti-Christ on the mound, you're still glad it's baseball season.