Rays to Red Sox: ‘Welcome back to earth’

As Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe notes, the Tampa Bay Rays have brought the Boston Red Sox and their fans crashing back to earth after crushing the BoSox 9-1 to take a 2-1 ALCS lead.

Tampa Bay RaysWe were kings of the world, universally hated by sports fans across the land. Life was a nonstop sequence of banner hoistings and ring celebrations. We grew arrogant, cocky, entitled.

And the Red Sox, winners of two of the last four World Series and favorites to repeat in the fall of 2008, find themselves trailing the once-laughable Tampa Bay Rays, two games to one, in the American League Championship Series. The Rays, deemed not ready for prime time playoffs by David Ortiz just a couple of days ago, routed the indomitable Jon Lester, 9-1, at Fenway Park yesterday. Who’s the scaredy cat now?

This is not to overreact to the Red Sox’ plight. The Sox last year trailed the Indians, 3-1, in the ALCS, then roared back to win the next three and sweep the Rockies in the World Series.

But yesterday’s lopsided loss to the Rays stunned a Nation still reeling from the Patriots’ Sunday night debacle in San Diego. Suddenly Big Papi is Big Popup. Boy Wonder Jacoby Ellsbury is 0 for his last 20 and has fans begging for Coco Crisp. Josh Beckett, Mr. October of this century, is serving more meatballs than Bertucci’s. Jason Varitek looks as though he might calcify in mid-swing. Terry Francona has forfeited his hardball Mensa membership and is hearing words he never heard in the Bible.

Upton’s blow was one of two homers in the third, and the Rays weren’t done hitting tape-measure shots. Boston fans hadn’t seen this many long bombs since Sunday night every time Philip Rivers looked in the direction of Deltha O’Neal. Tampa tattooed the Sox for four homers in Game 3, giving Joe Maddon’s Way Back Warriors seven home runs and 18 runs in two games. Ouch.

As Shaughnessy points out, the Red Sox have been down before and battled back. But it’s hard not to chuckle a bit when the big bad “Red Sox Nation” get their asses handed to them at Fenway when a club making its first postseason appearance in the history of their franchise. Still, this series is far from over and Lester had been fantastic before Game 3. I wouldn’t bet against the Sox making the series even in Game 4.

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