There’s an old saying in baseball that almost always applies: momentum is only as good as today’s starting pitcher.
Last night was further proof.
Rookie Shane McClanahan took the mound for Tampa Bay last night in Game 1 of the American League Division Series and recorded his first three outs by strikout, culminating in a 100-mph fastball to Rafael Devers. Red Sox veteran Eduardo Rodriguez walked the leadoff man and allowed a pair of runs – it could have been worse – and, well, that was pretty much it.
Final score: Tampa 5, Red Sox 0.
“This is the playoffs, man,” Rodriguez said. “You’ve got to be out there and do your job. If you can’t, you’re coming out of the game the way I did today.”
At least he understood that much.
And so, two days after the Red Sox opened the postseason with an 11-strikeout, no-walk, 113-pitch/85-strike masterpiece against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, their momentum went poof. There is lots to digest. The Sox have been a brittle team this year at times. They play better at home. And last night, on the road for the first time this postseason against a young and hungry team, they cracked before the game was an inning old. They even suffered the indignity of a steal of home plate – a real one – when Randy Arozarena zipped home under the (un)watchful eye of lefty Josh Taylor in the seventh inning for the final run of the game.
When that happens, the other team is spitting in your face.
The good news?
Momentum can return just as easily as it departs, though that will be a taller order against these Rays, who won 100 games this year and now won 12 of the last 16 against the Sox. Chris Sale (at least in name) goes to the mound tonight in Game 2. A win means the Sox are in the series. A loss means they are on the brink.
If you can predict what’s coming with these 2021 Sox, you’re really the only one.