Sunday, April 13, 2003

Games 11 and 12 - Red Sox

Orioles 13, Red Sox 6 (Saturday)
Red Sox 2, Orioles 0 (Sunday)
Record: 7-5

Surreal collection of images and events from this weekend. After fighting rain for the better part of 2 days, the Sox finally got their home opener underway on Saturday evening. Pedro Martinez, who'd given up one earned run in his first 15 innings, was pasted by the Orioles, giving up a career-high 10 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. This effort came on the heels of Pedro-induced controversy after the flaky Dominican had popped off to the media about his contract hours after the Sox had exercised their option to extend his contract through 2004 at a cool $17.5 million. Whitebread Boston was in an uproar, the flames fanned by Dan Shaugnessy and his tribe of bitter, acerbic hacks. Let me be very clear about this. Pedro can say and do anything he wants between starts, so long as he continues to bring it when it counts. His is an electric presence, raising the bar every time he pitches. His six-inning no-hit effort in relief against the Indians in the 1999 playoffs, while nursing an injured shoulder, counts as one of the most goosebump-inducing, magical performances of my career in fandom. That game alone buys Pedro an open license to speak his mind, misdirected though he may be. He is, very simply, the best pitcher I've ever seen, and arguably the best pitcher in the history of baseball.

I had prepared to pen some language about the black cloud that seems to be following this team in the event that they lost today's game. And I nearly had to use it after Tim Wakefield let the first two runners aboard in the top of the 9th, and then went 3-1 on Jay Gibbons. A strikeout, popout, and groundout later, and the home team had pulled out a hard-earned win. I watched the last two innings in bizarre fashion. The game was telecast on a local independent station, and the audio feed had been switched with a bluegrass radio program. I listened to the tinny strum of banjos and the nasal twang of West Virginian singers for a good 30 minutes while watching the Sox in their electric red new Sunday uniforms. (We'll save these uniforms for another day, but they are worth a few paragraphs, at least.) I daresay that I've never watched a game under similar conditions.

Twelve games into the season, and they have me highly puzzled. The optimist says that they haven't pitched well at all, and they're still 7-5, so if the arms come around, the sky is the limit. The doubter insists that the arms never will come around, and the bats can't carry the team all year, and oh-by-the-way the Yankees are 9-2. Many miles to go before we sleep, and they may well be bumpy ones.

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