One of my favorite family traditions is sitting down at the end of December and listing our highs and lows from the past year. What were the best moments and what were the worst? It’s a great way to summarize the ebb and flow of life. So, as Red Sox fans gladly wrap up a long and trying 2012, let’s take a look back at some highs and lows from the last twelve months. We’ll start with the Bottom 5 today, and be back next week with the Top 5. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I needed an extra week to come up with 5 great moments from this past year.)
5) August 31 — 20-2 Loss to the A’s — The popular sentiment after “The Trade” was made a couple of days earlier was that if the remaining players wanted to save Bobby Valentine’s job we would see it in how they played over the following few weeks. The team responded by losing 11 of their next 12, highlighted by this shellacking to close out a month that saw Boston go from 1 game over .500 to 8 games under. John, Tom, and Larry got the message and would eventually, mercifully fire Valentine after the season ended.
4) August 10 — Will Middlebrooks’ Broken Wrist — In a season that wasn’t really that much fun to follow, Middlebrooks arrival and immediate progression to a solid contributor was one of the few bright spots that kept me wanting to watch the team day in and day out. In 75 games he put together an impressive .288/.325/.509 line while proving to be a significant upgrade over Kevin Youkilis at 3B. All of that came to a screeching halt when a 96 mph fastball by Cleveland’s Esmil Rogers hit the rookie squarely in the right wrist. Just like that, Middlebrooks’ season was over and the (very short and completely forgettable) Danny Valencia era was underway in Boston.
3) April 8 — Walk Off Loss to the Tigers Finishes Opening Series Sweep — After a painful walk-off loss in Game 1 of the season, and a thorough 10-0 beat down in the next game, I came into Sunday’s contest just praying that the Red Sox wouldn’t be leaving Detroit winless. What ensued was far more painful than just a normal everyday loss. Clay Buchholz gave up 4 runs in the first, something that would become a horrible trend for Boston starters throughout the season. The Sox offense fought back to take a 7-5 lead. They would later go on to hold a 10-7 lead in the 9th, and a 12-10 lead in the 11th, both of which would eventually be surrendered on Tigers home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila. Cabrera’s 9th inning HR came off of Boston’s newly anointed closer Alfredo Aceves who faced 5 batters in the series, and failed to record a single out. Jonathan Papelwho? Cabrera’s stomach punch HR was just a warm up for what was coming. In the 11th inning, closer-in-waiting Mark Melancon gave up a RF shot to the Tiger’s catcher, Avila, with 2 outs. They went from a 12-11 lead and hoping for the final out, to walking off the field in a 13-12 loss on a single pitch. From winners to losers in an instant. It wasn’t just going 0-3 in Detroit that hurt, it was the incredibly gut wrenching fashion that it happened in that really set the tone for the season that lay ahead.
2) April 13 — Jacoby Ellsbury’s Injury — Coming into this game against Tampa Bay at 1 and 5, most Sox fans were hoping for any glimmer of hope that this faltering start was nothing more than another early season swoon. Sox fans got exactly what they were looking for as the team ran out to a quick 4-1 lead over Rays Ace David Price, with the 4th run coming on an Ellsbury single to right. What followed was another early season stake in the heart. Jacoby took off with the pitch, and Dustin Pedroia knocked a weak grounder up the middle to Tampa SS Reid Brignac who fell awkwardly on the outstretched shoulder of the sliding center fielder. The next day Boston placed Ellsbury on the 15-day DL with a partially dislocated right shoulder, but he would go on to miss 80 games before returning on July 13, exactly three months after the collision. The Red Sox would use a parade of center fielders in his absence ranging from mediocre to miserable including Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, Brent Lillibridge, Jason Repko, and the immortal Che-Hsuan Lin.
1) April 21 — Sox Blow 9-0 Lead to the Yankees — Cody Ross and Mike Aviles led Boston to a 9-0 lead through 5 innings but that cushion wasn’t sufficient for the bullpen on this particular day. Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves each gave up five earned runs while managing to secure one out between them. The 15-9 final sent the Sox to their 5th straight loss while completing an abbreviated (two game) series sweep for the Yankees. This improbable comeback was the third devastating loss for the team in only the first three weeks of the season (along with the previously mentioned April 8th loss to the Tigers and the injury to Ellsbury).
Honorable Mention: Every game that Marlon Byrd started in CF, the Opening Day walk off loss to the Tigers, seeing Youkilis in a White Sox jersey, every time a camera cut away to Bobby Valentine clapping merrily in the midst of his team imploding on the field, all 32 of Josh Reddick’s HR for Oakland, Jon Lester being left on the mound to give up 11 earned runs against Toronto, Cody Ross’ DL stint, the comical continuation of the “Fenway Sellout Streak”, every game the Red Sox starter allowed the opponent to hang a crooked number in the 1st inning, seeing Mark Melancon close games for Pawtucket, Youkilis signing with the Yankees, Jerry Remy’s prolonged health related absence from the NESN broadcasting team.