"You have to look at the bullpen as a whole," Shapiro says. "Betancourt and Perez have pitched in most of the highly leveraged situations with runners on. Often the biggest outs come before the ninth. And Joe has the toughness you need from a closer. He's aggressive, isn't afraid to pitch to contact and, most important for a closer, if he blows a game he forgets it in 10 minutes."
Relief pitching tends to be a highly variable element; pitchers, after all, are often assigned to the pen because they lack enough pitches or polish to start. While Borowski may be one prominent example of the erratic nature of the trade, so too was the Game 2 losing pitcher, Eric Gagné. The Red Sox obtained the 2003 Cy Young Award winner from Texas at the trading deadline to fortify what was the best bullpen in the league but one showing signs of fatigue. Gagné has been an UNMITIGATED DISASTER, allowing 40 base runners in his 20 innings with the Sox while collecting $4.5 million from them.
Gagné pitched one shaky inning of mop-up work in Game 1, in which Boston righthander Josh Beckett, 27, bronzed his reputation as the best postseason starting pitcher of his generation. Beckett joined Greg Maddux as the only pitchers to win consecutive starts in the same postseason without walking a batter. In two starts Beckett threw 52 balls to 53 batters while throwing 72% of his pitches for strikes.
"He's pitching with the command of Maddux but with a fastball he can run up there in the mid-90s," Boston pitching coach John Farrell says. "That's unheard of."
Boston manager Terry Francona held off using Gagné as long as he could the following night, using four relievers before summoning him in the 11th. Gagné got the big inning rolling by allowing a one-out single to Grady Sizemore and a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, whereupon Francona removed him. As Gagné trudged off the mound, the crowd at Fenway Park, with the smell of imminent defeat in the air, sent him off with a dirge of vicious catcalls and boos. At that moment it sounded very much like the Red Sox' rise to baseball aristocracy would not come so easily. It sounded, in fact, like old times.