Let us begin with the fact that, as Claymation Rocky Balboa memorably declared in that iced tea commercial from a long time ago, “Nuthin' is ovuh.” The Red Sox took a vicious beating Thursday afternoon, but there are games still to be played, a series still to be won, and there’s every chance that the Sox, like Rocky before them, will find a way to stagger to their feet and begin landing haymakers of their own.
Then again, watching the mauling of the Sox and their ace, Chris Sale, in game one of the American League Divisional Series, it was difficult to escape the feeling that the Houston Astros are simply on a different level. The Red Sox are a very good team, and this is a bad year to be a very good team in Major League Baseball.
The Astros are excellent, a club without an obvious weakness, and with a lethal offensive attack — and they might not even be the best team in the American League. Which is to say that, if the Red Sox are going to win this series, let alone a championship, they are going to be working with a razor thin margin for error.
That means there’s no room for the kind of sloppiness and poor decisions that have characterized the Sox at times this year, including Thursday.
One particularly glaring example was the horrendous baserunning mistake that Dustin Pedroia made in the second inning when he attempted to go from first to third on a Sandy Leon single.
In getting thrown out on a play that wasn’t particularly close, Pedroia committed the cardinal sin of making the third out of an inning at third base, nearly cost the Sox a run in the bargain, and ended the inning for the Sox rather than allow Jackie Bradley Jr. to hit with two men on. The play was bad enough on its own merits, but even worse when you consider that the Red Sox are a young and inexperienced team sorely in need of playoff leadership from a two-time champion like Pedroia.
Of course, when a team loses 8-2 and its best pitcher gives up seven runs in five innings, there’s plenty of blame to go around. We don’t know what’s behind Sale’s struggles over the past two months or so, but it seems possible that they are the result of the slightly built pitcher wearing down over the course of the season.
In the years to come, the Red Sox are going to have to come up with strategies for allowing Sale to pace himself as a season unfolds. If a trip to the DL with some phantom injury or other each year was good enough for Pedro Martinez, it is good enough for Sale.
Having said all that, maybe we’ll see Sale again in these playoffs, and perhaps he’ll be the dominant starter the Sox need. Maybe tonight’s starter, Drew Pomeranz, will follow up his terrific regular season with a sparkling playoff performance. And maybe the Red Sox bats will come to life, and even produce a home run or two.
After all, nuthin' is ovuh until it’s ovuh.