Well, here it is. Tonight marks the conclusion of the wild and wacky 2008 American League Championship Series - one way or another. The Rays, pinning their hopes on righty Matt Garza, will look to somehow regain some momentum in this series and avoid a complete, catastrophic playoff implosion that saw them, at one point, get to within 7 outs of heading to their first-ever World Series appearance before squandering a 7 run lead and limping back home.
The Sox, riding all the momentum in the world right now despite stranding about 37 base runners last night, will send lefty Jon Lester to the mound tonight. I don't know about you guys, and I know such a statement is anathema around these parts, but I've come to quietly respect these 2008 Red Sox. I would still like to see the Rays put the final nail in the coffin and prove small markets proud tonight, however I have found myself not totally loathing the Red Sox in the process. Perhaps the miracle comeback last Thursday changed some hearts and minds, but I also think that these Sox are just a lot more likeable than Red Sox teams of the recent past.
For instance, it's impossible NOT to pull for Jon Lester after all the medical hurdles he's jumped just to get back on the mound. Pedroia is the very definition of scrappy and "gritty" and doesn't strike me as a total ass. BIg Papi is obviously playing through pain this post-season, and despite sharing the spotlight with Manny all these years, has never uttered a bad word about the organization. Youkilis the Lumberjack was once almost "traded" to the A's in return for Billy Beane of all people and it's even somewhat nice to see Kotsay come through for the Sox the way he did with that inside-the-park-homer in the Metrodome in the 2006 ALDS. In fact, the only Sock I really can't stand is Papelbon due mostly to his over the top antics and overdramatic facial expressions. However, I still find myself begrudjingly respecting the guy for pitching in like 5 straight games and never allowing a run.
So that's my take. Like I said, I'm still pulling for the Rays tonight, but if the Sox do end up winning this thing, I'm not gonna hate them anymore than I already did before, and I guess that's about as complimentary as I'm ever going to get about the Sox.