BOSTON, MA: Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox races home for an inside the park home run against the Baltimore Orioles defends in the seventh inning during the second game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
This double-header was supposed to be meaningless, just a couple of games featuring prospects and suspects and witnessed by non-uniformed human beings only because Red Sox fans will happily witness almost anything.
But that was before the Red Sox stopped winning and the Tampa Bay Rays stopped losing.
Entering Monday's action, the Red Sox's lead over the Rays in the Wild Card standings was just two games; with the Rays idle, the Sox could pick up a whole game in the standings, lose a whole game in the standings, or exit Monday with that same two-game lead ... only the second of those possibilities being a real problem for the club's postseason chances.
Also in the event, the Red Sox won the nightcap 18-9.
Since that's obviously too many runs to revisit, just a few notes about the game that kept the Red Sox two games head of the Rays ...
John Lackey started for the Red Sox, gave up three runs in the first inning, and was accompanied by a Greek chorus of boos -- or where they chanting Jo-o-h-h-n / Jo-o-h-h-n? -- when Terry Francona yanked him in the fifth. The good news was that by then, the Sox were ahead, because ...
- One-time phenom Brian Matusz started for the Orioles, and brought a 9.84 ERA into the fray. Matusz was driven to cover with two outs in the second. Now his ERA is 10.88, and perhaps his manager will finally show some mercy and stop making him pitch.
- Entering the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox held a distinctly uncomfortable 11-9 lead. Soon it became exceptionally comfortable, thanks to a seven-run explosion highlighted by Jacoby Ellsbury's inside-the-park home run -- by the way, where was the left fielder on that play? -- and Conor Jackson's grand slam.
One of the two Monday games was the makeup of a May rain-out (if only someone had known then, what we know now!). The two clubs resume their four-game series Tuesday night, with Erik Bedard matched against Rich VandenHurk, making just his fourth appearance and second start in the majors this season. Meanwhile, the Rays begin a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. On paper, the Red Sox have the upper hand these next couple of days ... But they don't play baseball games on paper!