1) Tape NESN replay of yesterday’s 6-5 loss to the Rangers.

2) Label tape as “tough losses, volume 329”

3) Add tape to library (somewhere between “The Cannonball Run 2” and “Pluto Nash” will be fine)

4) Review tape on those days when the Sox are doing well, riding the crest of the wave, to remind yourself of just how awful things can get.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and call yesterday’s loss the worst of the 2004 season, thus far. It was a game that we should have won, it was a game we could have won, it was a game that, at various points in the ninth inning, the Rangers seemed to want us to win as well. But we couldn’t seal the deal. A potential game-winning rally is cut short as Pokey gets picked off first, and Bellhorn goes down looking at strike three.

Only it wasn’t strike three. It was low and away and a pitch that Mr. Stevie Wonder himself would have recognized as a ball. But it was a called a strike. Because, y’know, it gets hot during these July afternoon games and the umps like to get their drink on just as fabulously as the players do, and since they’re the ones who actually have the power to end the thing whenever they feel that thirst coming on, they can just do it. Like that. And he did. And here we are, this morning, with a bitter taste in our mouths. And it’s gonna sit there until Thursday night.

Making it worse is the controversy du jour: Manny asking out of the game because of a hurtin’ hammy. Some photogs captured Schilling giving Manny a “talking to,” or so that’s what they assumed it to be. How the hell do we know what they were talking about? I mean, what do you get from this photo:

All I know is, a win would have kept us spinning dizzy three feet off the ground throughout the entire All Star break. We would have been filled with the belief that the good ship Sox had righted itself, and the second half would be feel good time. Instead, there’s that all-too familiar “coulda woulda shoulda.” And, for lack of a better word, it sucks.