It's officially (still) panic time for Red Sox Nation, as the Baltimore Orioles have taken a 2-1 lead in a crucial series for the Boston Red Sox, winning 7-5 Tuesday night in comeback fashion. The Sawx still lead the Tampa Bay Rays by two games in the wild card race after the New York Yankees did their biggest rivals a favor.
This game, however, isn't panic-inducing because of the standings; it's because of how the Sox played. They were leading the O's 5-4 in the eighth inning when their two best relievers, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, combined to load the bases before Robert Andino's double — against this playoff-hopeful's closer — cleared them.
Obviously, the Red Sox are still in fantastic position. They have a two-game lead with seven games to play, three of which are against those same Yankees, whom, quite frankly, the Red Sox have dominated all season long. Those games must look like an oasis right now.
The Yankees' supposed big disadvantage to the Sox, starting pitching, hasn't been too reliable for the boys from Yawkey Way recently. Tuesday's starting pitcher, Erik Bedard, threw 51 pitches in the third inning, the most by any pitcher this season, continuing a string of disappointing appearances by a rotation that has backed into September.
What's worse, the back end of the bullpen, Bard and Papelbon - which had been a huge strength all season long - is looking less and less strong. There's another game against the Orioles tomorrow for the Red Sox, while the Rays and Yankees have a doubleheader, so all this may be moot if the Yanks can sweep.
Even if the Sox make the playoffs, it's hard to have any confidence in a long October run considering how little they've shown in September.