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Red Sox Without the Real Beckett

If the Rays can pull out this slugfest, which they now lead 8-6 in the fifth, the Red Sox will have to face the rest of this ALCS without the real Josh Beckett. He can still hit 93 on the gun, but he's obviously not right after his oblique muscle problem. Not just lack of command of his fastball, but not the same life. In two post-season starts he's allowed 18 hits, 12 runs, and five homers in 9 1/3 innings.

On the other hand, if the Red Sox can batter the Rays into submission after all their amazing comebacks already tonight, it may kill the Rays realistic hopes. Down two games, they still have to cope with Lester and Dice-K. Probably too much for them and they'll know it. But at 1-1, they look ahead to another shot at Beckett in Game Six in the Trop, perhaps against a Scott Kazmir who isn't overthrowing every pitch and suffering from playoff excitment. So they only have to win one in Fenway to come back home.

The Red Sox can knock 'em out if they pull this one out. Otherwise, they'll be in for a long series with a Beckett who isn't himself. At least the Rays have announced themselves and showed what they are capable of. Surprise teams can go cold in October, get tight and never "show up." Tampa Bay needed just one game like this to relax their hitters. The rest of this one is going to be some war.

By Thomas Boswell  |  October 11, 2008; 10:39 PM ET
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