TORONTO -- After one particularly close game in Cleveland back in 2007, a room full of Red Sox were all sitting around the visitors' clubhouse's television, simultaneously glued to the ESPN series on the 1978 Yankees, "The Bronx Is Burning."
Finally, then-Sox utility man Eric Hinske broke the silence, bellowing, "This is the weirdest winning clubhouse I've ever seen."
Monday night in the Rogers Centre would have at least been a close second.
The Sox had just won a 13-12 decision over the Blue Jays, but to look around it would be hard to distinguish who came out on top. Part of scene's mellow nature stemmed from an exhaustion that came with playing a 4-hour, 3-minute, nine-inning game.
But there was something else.
The Red Sox are winning -- having come out on top in five of their last seven games -- but that hasn't tempered a month of uneasiness. This time the fly in the ointment wasn't hard to find. They had allowed 12 runs on 16 hits, and, more noticeably, the Sox' starter, Josh Beckett, had issued eight of those runs in just three innings of work.
"That was not the way we drew it up, and I think I've said that a few times this year," manager Terry Francona summarized.
Right now, the Red Sox are just another team. They aren't Tampa Bay, or the Yankees. Could they be? Perhaps. But not now. Currently, Sox manager Terry Francona is often times trying to fit square pegs in round holes while the rest of the structure teeters on a shaky foundation.
That foundation, of course, would be those residing in the rotation. And Monday night that group's leader, Beckett, paved the way for more questions and concerns.
It was one of the Red Sox' ace's worst outings since he joined the team five seasons ago, marking the first time since Aug. 8, 2008 that he had pitched so few innings (or allowed six runs in a single frame). It put Beckett's ERA a 7.22, while amping up the insecurity of Sox followers.
The starter's demeanor helped add to the surreal nature of the post-game clubhouse. Usually Beckett will make sure his demeanor after starts are defined by the team's result, but this outing threatened that approach. Enough was enough, and this was enough.
"The numbers tell everything," he said. "They're not good."
Both for the pitcher and, in some respects, the team.
The Red Sox starters have allowed more hits (137) than any other group in baseball, while giving up the most runs (78) of any American League rotation. Yes, the number do tell everything, and it is a story so surprising that it leads to an uneven clubhouse, even after a win that included scoring 13 runs.
There were plenty of things learned in a game that included 34 hits, but here are four more uncovered by a most surreal clubhouse setting:
BECKETT ISN'T INTERESTED IN HISTORY
Beckett has made it a point, both for himself and his rotation-mates, that being defined by the past isn't an option. But, in this case, taking a look back might open the door for some much-needed optimism.
Beckett will finish this season's first month with the following numbers: 28.2 innings pitched, 37 hits, 24 runs, 20 strikeouts, 13 walks, .316 batting average against, 1-0, and a team record of 4-1 in his starts.
These were Beckett's numbers last April: 28.2 innings pitched, 36 hits, 24 runs, 31 strikeouts, 16 walks, .303 batting average against, 2-2, and a team record of 3-2.
The two months might not have bee identical (he did throw 530 pitches last April compared to 502 this time around), but you aren't going to get much closer.
So why the potential for hope: After trudging through that first month in '09 Beckett went on perhaps the best run of his career. The Red Sox desperately need another one of those, and so does the soon-to-be 30-year-old.
While the analysis of Beckett's struggles last season centered on his inability to command his breaking pitches, this rut has been defined by the simplicity of not putting his fastball where he wants to. For example, of the nine hits notched off the Sox' starter Monday night six of them came on plus-velocity heaters.
VARITEK HAS A SPRING IN HIS STEP
You can see it in the way he prepares, swings the bat, and even runs around the bases. That image of the depressed former-starter riding the pine has been buried. Jason Varitek seems born-again on the baseball field.
For the first time since last July 30, Varitek garnered three hits in a single game, two of which came from the left-side of the plate.
He wasn't about to stand in front of his locker and wax poetic about the fact that he has the best slugging percentage of any American League catcher, or that he is riding a .357 batting average (including a 7-for-20 clip against his arch nemesis, right-handed pitchers). But one could tell that even after crouching for the better part of four hours, Varitek carried an excitement.
SCUTARO WAS RIGHT AT HOME
While Marco Scutaro wasn't part of the scene in the clubhouse following the game, he had been the centerpiece prior to the first pitch. The folks in Canada wanted to see how Scutaro was handling life as a Red Sox, and if he was losing sleep over the prospects of being booed by what would be a crowd of 13,847 at Rogers Centre.
He was booed (slightly), but also allowed both teams an opportunity to remember why Scutaro had finally found the big bucks.
Scutaro, once again filling in for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, was one of five Red Sox' hitters to come away with three hits. He also scored four runs, a feat he didn't manage once during a 2009 season that saw the shortstop finish with 100 runs scored.
The player Scutaro will forever be compared with, Toronto shortstop Alex Gonzalez, did enough to keep his following among Red Sox' faithful, getting two hits of his own for a .286 batting average for the season. But it was Scutaro who did what so many had been banking on him doing more times than not this season -- he both set the tone and kept the good times rolling.
With the fill-in leadoff hitter leading the way, the first three hitters in the Red Sox' order -- Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis -- went a combined 9-for-15 with nine runs and four RBI. And the team that came into the game with the majors' best OPS with runners in scoring position over the last week kept on keeping on, going 11-for-20 in such situations.
THE REALITY OF A ROSTER
After Beckett, there was some good and some bad when it came to Red Sox' pitchers. The two relievers following the Sox' starter -- Scott Atchison and Scott Schoeneweis -- were a bit shaky, as was eight-inning set-up man Hideki Okajima, who didn't retire any of his three batters.
But at the same time Manny Delcarmen kept progressing, keeping the arm slot that sees his right arm extend out with each pitch instead of delivering the ball in a compact angle. This time the payoff was two scoreless innings, and -- as Francona pointed out -- six valuable outs. And Jonathan Papelbon responded from two shaking outings, cruising through a flawless ninth for his sixth save.
Yet in the clubhouse after the game any celebration was tempered by the sight of Atchison getting his bag packed while interviews went on the other side of the locker room. He had been told that the time had come when the Red Sox were going to take advantage of the fact the 34-year-old still had an option, sending him to Triple A Pawtucket.
The Red Sox' bullpen had pitched 9 1/3 innings over the past two games and it needed reinforcements. So the move was made with Atchison, with the Red Sox summoning Triple A starter Fabio Castro.
"We need somebody," Francona noted. "We're a little thin."