Agganis Lives

   I thought I was so clever back in the top of the seventh inning, after B.J. Upton's two-run double off Jonathan Papelbon put Tampa Bay up 7-0.

   Yes, Dan Shaughnessy nailed Game 4 of the ALCS with a pithy one-liner: "It was like reading your 401(k) statement." Having received mine today, I could relate (all I'll say is that if I had as much in stocks as my manager recommended, I'd have taken a five-digit loss this year).

   And I thought to myself, Saddam Hussein's Elite Republican Guard offered more resistance to U.S. forces in the first Gulf War than the Red Sox offered Tampa Bay over three nights at Fenway Park.

   That was true for 24 1/2 innings, anyway.

   The Red Sox offense remembered to wake up. The Tampa Bay pitching and defense forgot how to close the show.

   Dustin Pedroia remembered how to be a pest. David Ortiz remembered how to hit big home runs. Coco Crisp remembered how to battle with two strikes. Justin Masterson remembered how to throw a double play ball when he really needed one.

   And J.D. Drew remembered how badly he'd like to deal some payback to the city that ran him out of town. Only one spectacle could equal the hissyfit Boston's sports media would've pitched if Manny Ramirez came back for a World Series: the tantrum the Philadelphia sports media will hurl if Drew returns to the City of the Brotherly Shiv next week.

   Of course, that would entail the Red Sox winning twice in Tampa Bay, where they are 2-9 this season. Can we skip a starting pitcher and take our chances with the bullpen instead? Josh Beckett would be on the DL if this were August. John Lester wasn't so awesome in Game 3. Tim Wakefield looked like Muhammad Ali fighting Larry Holmes in Game 4. Dice-K didn't get away with his usual brinksmanship tonight.

   Terry Francona stubbornly sticks with Beckett in Game 6 and Lester for Game 7. Don't let your loyalty get you killed, Tito. I want Lester in 6, and will piece together whatever I can for 7. If it gets to 7, I play a big hunch and, if I don't need him in 6, start Masterson - he pitched well as a starter earlier in the year before a trip to Pawtucket to learn bullpen.

   As much as I admire the job Joe Maddon's done this year, he choked tonight. His hunch on Scott Kazmir as the starter proved to be brilliant (James Shields, though the ace, has a career double-digit ERA at Fenway). But going to Dan Wheeler in the seventh was panic. When your closer struggles enough in the eighth that he has nothing left for the ninth...that's the kind of move you make when you're down 3-1 in a series, not ahead.

   Will Evan Longoria's throwing error with two out in the ninth be the '08 equivalent of Mariano Rivera allowing Dave Roberts to steal second in Game 4 of the '04 ALCS, the moment the express to defeat took a detour?

   We'll have fun finding out this weekend. Never have the Red Sox visited Tampa Bay with so little pressure.


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