If the Angels lose, they go home. If the Angels win, they ... go home. If they tie, you will never sleep tonight. Those are your options. The pitchers pitching are Jon Lester and John Lackey. The announcers announcing are Chip Caray and Buck Martinez. The jumpers jumping are everybody except you ... so far. * * *Bottom 9th 2 3I do believe we finally have a Sox-Angels game that took less — MUCH less — than three hours to complete. Even better, it was back and forth for the last three innings. Even more to the point, there is a perfectly good Justin Masterson for sale on Craigslist. So that's the clincher. Boston and Tampa Bay for the league champeenship. In no professional sport does that city matchup look right. So I will nap off the willies for 48 hours in the hopes that it makes more sense by then. Thanks for breezing through this game with me, comrades. 11:28 — Add one more scrappy hero to the Bostonian pile: Jed Lowrie's ground ball escapes Howie Kendrick's grasp, lands in front of Willits, and you know what happens from here. Bay rounds third, slides, and it's drinking time for Massachusetts. Mother of a multiracial messiah those final three plays happened so fast. 11:28 — Fifty-seven exclamation points in a row, please. Teixeira dives and catches Kotsay's scorcher. 11:26 — After Drew whiffs at nothin' but nitrogen, Reggie Willits slowly morphs into All-Star Dan Uggla. He dives at Bay's fly ball down right field, but doesn't get close and the ball jumps into the right field mosh pit for a double. 11:24 — Hey Scot. Can ya' keep pitchin'? Theenks. Top 9th 11:22 — With the inning pretty much over, Aybar will be on SportsCenter only twice as he grounds out to first. 11:20 — Whoa, craziness down the third base line. Varitek runs down Willits on the squeeze play, falls, drops the ball, and Willits is still out. Why is he out, even though he dropped it? As John Madden would say, he was down by contact, and one knee equals two feet. (I actually have no goddamn clue why the tag counts. I didn't read Section 15.2.viii of the rulebook. No spoilers, please. 11:18 — Manny Delcarmen, which is my favorite Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, will now throw really fast balls to Jason Varitek, most of which he'll catch. Erick Aybar, do you want to be on SportsCenter? Or do you want to be on SportsCenter eight times? 11:16 — Reggie Willits will do the running that Morales simply won't do, and Kendrick selflessly sacrifices his own internal organs to send Willits to third base. Terry Francona wants to use a different pitcher, and frankly can you blame him? 11:15 — Wait, really? Kendry Morales doubles to start the "final" inning. Like hell this is the final inning. That's like saying there's a final level in the video game Gauntlet. THERE ISN'T. 11:13 — It's the ninth, and you know what that means. Time for Kendry Morales to pinch hit! [shrug] Bottom 8th 2 211:10 — Youkilis, please give Julio Franco back his batting stance. That's why you struck out, dont'cha know. 11:08 — Yeck. David Ortiz hasn't looked that bad swinging at a curve in the dirt since Minnesota. 11:05 — Scot Shields, your mission is to take this 2-2 lead and do nothing with it. Pedroia lines out accordingly. Still Top 8th 11:03 — Hey, that totally wasn't sarcasm just then. I literally knew Napoli was going to fly out to right field to end the inning. 11:01 — Hey, another 0-2 count for Masterson, this time on Mike Napoli, who has done absolutely NOTHING at Fenway in this series. (That anyone would choose to remember.) Certainly nothing horrible will come of this, and the game will move to the bottom of the inning. 10:59 — Whoops++. Masterson gets ANOTHER 0-2 count, falls to 2-2, and Torii laces a ball the other way, plating two, tying the game, and certainly keeping up everyone on the Atlantic coast up until 1:30 a.m. 10:56 — Whoops. Masterson's pitch goes right by Varitek's glove — it doesn't even touch his glove — and runners move up. Maybe that's why he's batting ninth. Buck Martinez defends the man by assuming Tek was looking curve when it turned out to be fastyball. 10:56 — Fenway fans mocking Torii Hunter by chanting his first name. HAHA, WHAT A GOOFY NAME. That sure put a bee in his bonnet, no doubt. 10:53 — Okajima's out and Justin ... Masterson comes in to pitch? Okay, they're just signing people based on their surname and hoping it works out. Masterson turns an 0-2 advantage into a magic 3-2 count, ten walks Guerrero. Commercial Break Sweet! The Viagra couple threw their phone out the window. It's burglin' time! Top 8th 10:50 — Ed Rapuano's strike zone has taken a turn for the more Plastic Man-like, and Teixeira walks on four pitches. 10:48 — Insta-speculation on Garret Anderson, Mark Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero, and Francisco Rodriguez. (AND Jon Garland. Chip Caray really wants front row tickets to that fire sale.) Anderson grounds out, the second in as many batters. 10:44 — No more Lester for tonight. Hideki Okajima will protect the shutout, the lead, and perhaps a few injured gazelles. The night is young. Bottom 7th 0 210:40 — The Red Sox are so hardcore, man, they catch their own fly balls. Or ... they ground into their own double plays. Hell, even Lackey's gone seven innings. WORKHORSES! Seventh Inning Stretch Halftime Entertainment I gotta say, the combination of Hulu.com and Sarah Palin seems to have caused a slight resurgence of Saturday Night Live popularity. I said SLIGHT. And I said nothing about quality. Hence the ol' skoo' clip. Top 7th 10:35 — Pitchers still go seven innings in the playoffs now? I thought we evolved beyond that. Andy Sonnanstine went 5 2/3 innings against the White Sox this evening, and that's the LDS equivalent of a complete game. Impressive work by Lester so far. 10:31 — Well, if this game's going to end before midnight, the Red Sox are going to win it, because any type of clawing back by the Guys With Halos On Their Logo will draw out the game and empty the bullpen in any given inning. Thing is, the Red Sox are grabbing every short fly ball known to man. Bottom 6th 0 210:28 — Roll over the pitch, Kotsay. Now run slowly to first. Good. We're making great time. 10:26 — Erick Aybar gives Jason Bay's ground ball a little love push into the outfield. It's ruled a hit. John Lackey rules it grounds for public flogging. 10:24 — Youkilis hits a ground ball, requiring a good defensive play. It happens. The crowd is unimpressed and therefore biased. Top 6th 10:21 — Lester gets through the sixth cleanly after Napoli's fly ball makes Jason Bay all but get on his tippy-toes to catch it leaning nonchalantly against a giant green wall. 10:18 — Youkilis gloats his defensive prowess at third by throwing out Torii Hunter. "Mike Lowell wouldn't make this play because he's injured." I want to make fun of that sentence, but actually that's some darn solid logic embedded in the statement. 10:16 — Mark Kotsay dives just past the first base coaches box to catch up to Guerrero's broken bat flair. No way is that ball caught in Baseball Simulator 1.000. Maybe in Bases Loaded. Bottom 5th 0 210:13 — Ortiz tried to murder John Lackey! Was I the only one who saw that? He sure made it look unintentaional, but the puma-like reflexes by Lackey caused him to knock it down and throw him out. 10:12 — What's better than a sac groundout? Well, many things. Peanut butter and chocolate, for one. But more to the point, Pedroia's double tames the green monster — in this case, a Sleestak — and brings in the future CEO of VeriTech. Double the run total, por favor. 10:10 — The good news is that Kendrick didn't let Ellsbury's ground ball go through his glove. (Sounds like something I'd do.) The bad news is he didn't field it cleanly, and even though Ellsbury was hosed down at first, there's no double play and a run sneaks home from third. 10:08 — The Ninth Batter corks one literally, physically through Teixeira and you've got men in red on the corners. (The good red.) 10:05 — When his baseball days are over, Jason Varitek needs to found a company called VeriTech. It could be home security, a notary firm, or just a group of people that go out, mingle with pedestrians, say, "Yes, that is true" and then run back to the office and collect $150 an hour. But that's not important right now, for he's batting freaking ninth. 10:03 — Rays clinch. Square the square. Top 5th 9:59 — STEEEEEEEE-RIIIIIII..... ball two. Jon Lester really wanted it, but let's look at the RapuGraphic: Hey, it WAS a strike! No matter, the next pitch went right down the middle of the plate, which, according to the graphic, should be ball three. Well, that's the world working itself out for ya. No runs for L'Anaheim. 9:57 — Graphic time. Men left on base this series: Angels 40, Red Sox 33. Oh come on. There's only 25 men on each roster. Some of those are duplicates. 9:55 — Somewhere in my fury of crossing network streams, the Angels have two dudes on base and just one out. 9:50 — Craig Sager reports that Mike Scioscia basically guaranteed a win tonight with "forensic analysis" or something. Buck Martinez beat me to the CSI reference, although what a poor way to trumpet the company line by having Martinez reference someone other network's show. Here on Turnervision™, it's "The Closer" or "Frank TV" spoofing CSI or any of the zillion times they show "Legally Blonde," which includes passing references to detective work. Bottom 4th 0 09:48 — Jason Bay IS Jim Breuer in "Too High." Now playing in an inning-ending fly ball at-bat near you. (Featuring Gilbert Gottfried as "The Ornery Lampshade.") 9:45 — Drew's fly ball to RightCenter™ — sounds like an appliance store — tags up David Ortiz. In other news, Ortiz does his own running. I thought all he did was hit. Maybe the pitcher should run in his place once he gets to first. Seems fair to me. 9:42 — Does Julio Franco know Kevin Youkilis stole his batting stance? Moreover, does he know it still works? Youk's grounder to Figgins causes him to hurry the double play throw to Howie Kendrick at second, resulting in a wide throw, a dropped ball, and Taxachusettsans at first and second. 9:38 — Ed Rapuano's strike zone has been called into question more than once tonight. So as a public service to baseball fans everywhere, here's the strike zone Rapuano announced on his Myspace he would be using tonight: Top 4th 9:35 — Rivera grounds out to third, but his bat doesn't break and impale anyone. Issue addressed and solved. 9:33 — Football: "Spinal injuries and broken bones are a part of the game." Baseball: "We have to do something about baseball bats hitting a player ... before it happens." Mike Napoli's groundout comes free with half a piece of lumber screeching by Lester over the mound. 9:30 — First they named a foul pole after Johnny Pesky, then they retired his number. So just because they named a urinal trough after Keith Foulke, doesn't mean all hope is lost on a number retirement ceremony. Bottom 3rd 0 09:27 — Crimony, this game's going fast. If this thing ends before 11:30, I won't know what to do with myself. I might have to go to sleep on time. That's entirely too frightening to think about. 9:27 — Oh, that's why they bat ninth. 9:26 — Jason Varitek is now batting. Ninth. Jason Varitek is batting ninth. Mark Kotsay is batting ahead of Jason Varitek. Since when do captains bat ninth? Top 3rd 9:23 — Bagger Vance squibs a grounder to second, and Dustin Pedroia heroically dives toward it and BARELY throws out Guerrero by one-and-a-half steps. Phew, good thing he hustled! Inning-half over. 9:20 — Mark Kotsay would make good escapee of a building on fire. He barrels over Kerwin Danley in pursuit of the foul ball. For good measure, he should have backed over him when going back to first. 9:16 — Teixeira walks, and Vladimir Guerrero — yes, it looks like he's golfing! — comes swingin' away. You never hear an announcer talk about Guerrero swinging at shoulder-high pitches and describe it like hitting a piñata. 9:14 — Mark Teixeira is hitting quite well this series. With Figgins on second, let's take a look at every single hit he's made in this divisional series. [dance groove ditty] 9:11 — We've accepted for far too long that "Chone" Figgins is pronounced "Shawn." It would delight me if his name was a homophone for the UNIX command chown. He hits to left and gets the honor of standing on the Simon handheld game leadoff graphic. 9:07 — Seth Rogen movies: Because Will Ferrell movies are just too erudite for middle America. Bottom 2nd 0 09:05 — JD Drew hits, Jason Bay walks ... and Mark Kotsay errors by hitting into a double play. 9:03 — Kevin Youkilis sits down after a called third strike that, were the Red Sox to challenge using TBS' StrikeBoxTelemetryWhatchercaller, could have gotten a ball three. Top 2nd 8:58 — Howie Kendrick strikes out to kill the rally, but does his part to tack on six more seconds to the game by running to first and making Varitek throw to first. 8:56 — Extend! EXTEND! Juan Rivera bangs a two-out hit past shortstop. Commence thoughts on how Manny Ramirez would have fielded that base hit and thrown it to second. 8:54 — After two quick outs, Mike Napoli is following company orders by fouling off about three pitches in a row, then calling for time, to extend this game a bit. (Drawing a walk also helps this cause.) 8:51 — Of course the list of tonight's umpires elicits the groove music. Everything should. "And tonight's peanut vendors are:" dow dow DOW DOW DOW ... dow dow DOW DOW DOW ... nnn-tsssh nnn-nnn-tsssh ♬ Bottom 1st 0 08:47 — Quick outs by Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz put this game on pace for a breezy 90 minutes. That's not nearly enough Frank TV ads to make quota. 8:45 — I wonder what baseball would be like if actual 10-foot-tall playing cards were in the field instead of human beings. 8:43 — Time to introduce us to the Red Sox lineup. And ... groove. This music's actually too cool to physically dance to. You can just listen to the music and the notes will dance for you. Top 1st 8:41 — What's Lester's hurry? Must be double parked. Fignuts, Garret Anderson and Mark Teixeixiexeixera go down in a span of about four minutes. This brings our estimated finish time up to 1:41 a.m. 8:38 — Jon Lester to Chone Figgins: Ball one. The first pitch started one minute late. We're already behind, and expect the pace to continue. 8:37 — The groovy lineup introduction music TBS throws out there makes my bone marrow want to salsa. 8:36 — Wow, the Great Pumpkin is several weeks early for Hallowe... oh, it's just Craig Sager. Pre-Game Babble Let's look back at how this series has gone: Game 1: A bit over three hours. (Good.) Game 2: Almost four hours. (Ick.) Game 3: damn well over five hours. (Zzzzzzz) When TBS said "rig the playoffs so there's more Red Sox," that's not what they had in mind. Tonight's game may very well take seven hours, even if they have to pause between pitches to ask regular bargoers if Jonathan Papelbon is available to pitch tonight. Sheesh. It looks like Mike Lowell took the easy way out of this series. By the way, I was planning on doing last night's game, but yesterday afternoon decided against it just because I was lazy. It turned out to be the second smartest decision I've made all year. The smartest? Turning down the Oakland Raiders head coaching job. If the Angels win this sucker, Game 5 will be in Anaheim Wednesday night, and experts in the field of Momentumography agree that the Angels will be virtually impossible to beat to the point that it's not even worth trying to play the game, so Boston might just forfeit the win. Heck, they won it last year. Chicago hasn't won one in 100 years. What's the rush? Other certainties: death, taxes, and bingo. (And that "I think I'm in love ... with a phone!" commercial.) NOTE: Tampa Bay. Holy hell.