Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians continued the Sox recent trend of drama-filled games, but not for a late comeback. In the 8th inning, the Indians brought on reliever Jensen Lewis to apparently throw at Adrian Beltre to begin the inning. Lewis threw 1 pitch behind Beltre and the 5’11”, 220 lb man took exception and took a step or two towards the mound. After that point, benches cleared and both coaches and players alike were unhappy with the way the events unfolded. Earlier in the contest, Josh Beckett hit 2 Indians batters, but both were clearly not on purpose, but the Indians didn’t see it that way.
Josh Beckett, Jensen Lewis and Indian’s 3rd base coach Steve Smith were all ejected, but when the dust settled, Jonathan Papelbon was on the mound shutting down the Indiana 1-2-3 to secure the 3-1 victory. Overshadowed in all of the drama was Mike Lowell triumphant return to the lineup, as he crushed the 1st pitch he saw for a 2-run home run into the Green Monster seats. His hit got the Sox off on the right foot, and made a statement about the amount he can still contribute to this club in 2010.
I’m not the 1st to make this comparison and won’t be the last, but I firmly believe it. Tonight’s brawl felt a lot like the 2004 Sox/Yanks tussle that motivated the Sox to make a comeback and surge into the playoffs. There have been many moments this past week that have felt like turning points, but this one is the be whammy. To see injured Kevin Youkilis and Mike Cameron in the middle of the brawl was both stupid and telling about their commitment to this team and the chemistry this team has developed this season. I’m not guaranteeing a repeat of the stretch run and post-season of 2004, but the team is set-up to finish strong.
A brawl is an amazing thing. It can light a fire under and team and get them going, assuming the the players can channel the passion into focus and drive. It was the best possible scenario for the Sox as well, because no one threw punches, so there will likely be no Sox suspensions. A motivator without negative consequences? I hope so. As important as the brawl was, the win was equally as crucial, given the loss by the Yankees and their continued slide. The Sox are now 5.5 games back in the AL Wild Card and 6.5 behind the new AL East leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The key to getting back into contention is simple: One step at a time. One of my old teachers used to say the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Right now, the Sox deficit is the elephant and they need to shrink to lead by winning and inching closer one small step at a time. One step down, many more to go…