- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Top 10 reasons Red Sox fans should watch "The Decision" Thursday night on a certain sports network:
1. The Sox, mercifully, are off. What was billed as gripping theater just a couple of nights ago -- by no less a drama critic than yours truly -- has begun to look like outtakes from "Survivor." At least until the ninth inning Wednesday night, when the Sox somehow brought the go-ahead run to the plate after being dominated all night by David Price.
"One of those days,'' said Tim Wakefield, the losing pitcher in Tampa Bay's 6-4 win, which was that close only because the Sox scored twice in the ninth, "when the fight was too little, too late.''
2. It beats thinking about the three-game sweep by Tampa Bay, which began the week a half-game behind the Sox and now leads Boston by 2 ½. Price, who leads the American League in wins with 12 and could well draw the start in Tuesday's All-Star Game, defied the Sox to hit his fastball, which he threw 100 times out of 111 offerings.
"The command of that fastball, the way he was throwing it, I'm not sure I blame him,'' said Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team was down 5-0 before David Ortiz doubled home a run in the sixth against Price, who struck out 10 in 7 2/3 innings.
The Sox have lost four in a row. The Yankees and Rays both have won five straight and have each picked up four games in four days against the Sox.
"This is a disappointing three days as far as getting wins,'' Francona said. "We ask our guys to try their best, to do their best, and that's exactly what they're doing. We'll get on the plane [to Toronto], regroup and keep battling.''
3. Two errors (should have been three), three wild pitches, a passed ball, six walks, three stolen bases, 11 whiffs. If that qualifies as entertainment, "The Decision" would be must-see TV even if it were about a guy choosing what aftershave to wear instead of where he intends to make his next billion.
The errors were made by third baseman Adrian Beltre, who booted a routine ground ball for his 14th miscue, most among big league third basemen, and second baseman Bill Hall, who dropped a feed for a double play.
Shortstop Marco Scutaro made a bad throw and was originally charged with an error, but the scorer changed it to a hit. Even the perennially reliable Kevin Youkilis had trouble getting a ball out of his glove on what should have been an easy pickoff play.
The walks and wild pitches belonged to Wakefield, the passed ball to catcher Kevin Cash.
"I couldn't throw it for strikes,'' Wakefield said. "I ended up walking six guys and probably cost us the game. I couldn't make the adjustments to get it over the plate, and their approach obviously changed after the second inning. They started taking more pitches; I fell behind in the count. No excuses. I walked too many guys tonight and had too many guys on base.''
4. It will be more productive than wondering whatever became of Niuman Romero. Or who Niuman Romero is.
5. It'll make for a nice change of pace. For one night, you can yell at LeBron the Yankees fan, instead of Tito the Sox manager, whose decision not to pinch hit Mike Cameron in the ninth Tuesday night wasn't helped when Cameron went 3-for-3 with a home run and sacrifice fly Wednesday.
The assumption made in some quarters (mostly here) was that Cameron was too sore to hit Tuesday. And maybe he was. But truth be told, Cameron said he'd been told to be ready to hit. "I was going to hit maybe in an inning if we got some guys on base,'' Cameron said. "That's what I was ready for. I started getting ready about fourth, fifth inning on.''
So did he think he might hit for Romero after David Ortiz was walked intentionally for the third straight time, putting runners on the corners in a one-run game?
"I wouldn't have been caught by surprise,'' Cameron said, "if that had been the case.''
Was he surprised when it turned out that wasn't the case?
"Uhhhhhh, we really didn't have anybody left but a catcher [Gustavo Molina] and he had to go catch, but I guess a little bit. I thought more so than anything I was ready to hit and go from there. But you know, sometimes you never know when you're going to be [asked to run]. I'm just happy to have that element. One of those things, man.''
Still, Cameron acknowledged, his health is a nightly issue.
"We've got a lot of guys on the DL,'' he said, "and I'm probably walking the tightrope.''
6. It'll be the first time in weeks you can turn on your TV and not worry that a Sox player will get hurt.
The good news, such as it is, is that Jacoby Ellsbury will rejoin the team in Toronto for the weekend and begin baseball activities, which he will continue in Fort Myers next week. Clay Buchholz also had a good side session and should be back in the rotation right after the All-Star break.
7. It will get you in the right frame of mind for the trade deadline three weeks away, when Theo Epstein will be the one making the decisions. How does he upgrade the AL's worst bullpen? Does he add another middle infielder or an extra outfielder, or does he just play it cool and trust that once this team throws away its crutches, everything will be OK?
8. It will prepare you for some decisions you will care more about in the coming months: Do the Sox pick up Ortiz's option? Do they try to re-sign Victor Martinez and/or Beltre? Do they trade Ellsbury, a possibility that is gaining traction with some scouts saying the Sox are dropping hints they'll listen to offers after the season?
9. It's been three years since you had any reason to give a thought to Cleveland. You can go one of two ways: Gloat at the possibility of more misery for the Clevelanders, who watched the Indians blow a 3-1 lead to the Sox in the '07 ALCS, or pray that LBJ has an ounce of compassion on his fellow Ohioans and doesn't pile on -- on national TV, no less.
10. Do you really want to watch Larry King instead?
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
The decision for Red Sox fans is clear: Take a night away from baseball.