BOSTON - The dagger into the psyche of Red Sox fans was tweaked once again yesterday.
"I don't think anything is really that enjoyable for us right now," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell after his team's 6-1 loss to Toronto. "I think (yesterday) just adds to that."
Forget what transpired on the Fenway Park field, which by day's end resulted in the rise of the Red Sox's American League East deficit to a season-high 9 games. When a team, which was once the most potent offensive machine at home, scratches out two runs over two games it doesn't exactly elicit runs on the T-shirt rack over at Twins Souvenirs.
The real story of the 2006 Red Sox was taking place in other major league ports of call.
In Milwaukee, a Marlins rookie shortstop by the name of Hanley Ramirez was going 4 for 5 with three RBIs and a pair of runs. He's hitting .287 with 13 homers and 44 stolen bases.
Watching his teammate from the Florida dugout was another rookie, Anibal Sanchez. Just two days before, the Marlins starting pitcher had a six-inning, two-run, 114-pitch no-decision against the Brewers. It was the affable youngster's fifth straight start where he lasted at least six innings without giving up more than two earned runs.
Petco Park supplied some more exclamation points, thanks to players named David Wells, Josh Bard, and Cla Meredith.
Wells started for the Padres against the Reds, finishing his first game away from the Red Sox this season with a six-inning, one-run gem. He was followed by Meredith, who stretched his streak of consecutive scoreless outings with two more shutout innings. And Bard, San Diego's cleanup hitter, capped off the Padres' 2-1 win with a game-winning RBI single in the eighth.
All of these performances sparked a debate which will surely gather steam throughout the final 25 games of the season: Are the Red Sox holding onto the right guys?
Nobody is going to argue that Wells' presence was no longer needed in Boston, considering the team's sudden shift in priorities. But Ramirez, Sanchez, Bard, and Meredith represent a disturbing trend that is being brought to light with the influx of the Sox's newest wave of newcomers.
Boston's side of the story took a hit with Josh Beckett's first mediocre performance in his last three starts. With an ERA still above 5.00 (5.11), the prize of the trade which included sending Ramirez and Sanchez to Florida threw 77 pitches in taking his 10th loss in 24 decisions.