Monday, July 28, 2003

Games 102 - 104 - Red Sox

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
Red Sox 5, Yankees 4
Red Sox 6, Yankees 4
Record: 62-42

I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. This was one of the best three-game series in the majors this season, and I'm not just saying that because the Sox took 2 of 3. All three games were close, well-played contests, with lots of intrigue, managerial manuevering, clutch hitting, and intensity. All three games were won in the 7th inning or later, with the first two not decided until the 9th inning. The Fenway crowds were large, loud, and in post-season form. Big players made big plays - for both teams. I'm actually physically tired, largely due to the fact that I channelled my nervous energy into situps and pushups during Saturday's game, knocking out about 200 of each over the course of the contest. I can hardly lift my arms.

All those platitudes aside, it's time to work a little blue. FUCK YEAH!!! That feels nice, and it's what I said when Manny's sliding, sprawling catch ended last night's game. It would be hard to overestimate how angry I was at about 4:10 on Saturday afternoon, after the Yankees had crawled back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game at 4 in the 8th. On the heels of the close loss on Friday, a loss Saturday would have put the Sox 4.5 back of the Yanks, and had them reeling coming in to Sunday's game. Then, like a gift from above, David "Florida Evans" Ortiz laced a liner off the Monster with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to deliver the win. I leapt to my feet and screamed out loud, startling my daughter and scaring the cat.

I thought it was instructive to note that while many of the Sox rushed to congratulate Ortiz, at least as many crowded around Jeremy Giambi, who singled, stole second (the first such steal of his CAREER), and scored the winning run. Giambi, the forgotten man this season, made the kind of plays that a championship team must make throughout the season. The Sox depth is increasingly apparent, with Giambi, Ortiz, and Damian Jackson all contributing significantly off the bench in the two Sox wins in this series.

Last night's game was Exhibit A for the character of the 2003 Red Sox (or, possibly, Exhibit B after the game they lost, 6-5, after coming back in the 9th against Mariano Rivera). Jeff Weaver simply shut them down through 6 innings, giving up only 2 hits and no threats after the first inning. Derek Lowe didn't have his good stuff, and was victimized by some bad luck, but he gritted his teeth, never displayed the Derek Lowe Face, and kept the game close while he was on the mound. Last year's team would have slogged through the motions for the final three innings, and flew to Texas after a desultory series with their tails between their legs. Not so this team.

Joe Torre may be doing some serious second-guessing this morning after bringing in a rusty lefthander to face Jason Varitek. Chris Hammond hadn't pitched in over a week, and Varitek is hitting over .350 against lefties this season. With two on and one out in the bottom of the 7th, Torre rolled the dice, and brought Hammond in to face the Sox catcher. Varitek's subsequent bomb over the Monster seats may well go down as the signature moment of the Sox season, if the Boston 9 survives August and makes a postseason run.

Whitney's friend Armando Benitez turned in a fine few batters before yielding to Methuselah, err, Jesse Orosco. Ortiz struck again with two on, ripping a triple to right to plate the final two runs of the inning. I'm certain that Torre was shocked when Grady Little decided to let the lefthanded Ortiz swing against Orosco. I'm sure he expected to see Gabe Kapler in that spot. Grady was rewarded when Ortiz delivered his second huge hit in as many days.

It was well past my bedtime when B.H. Kim came on to try to close out the game. When he walked Derek Jeter to start the inning, fleeting images of Yankees circling the bases fought to the fore of my consciousness. Then, when Bernie Williams' weak grounder turned into an infield single with one out, my insides were screaming at full red alert. Damian Jackson's comic flailings as he attempted to find Hideki Matsui's grounder while falling to the ground intensified the alarm, and my heart didn't stop racing until 15 minutes after Manny's scintillating grab robbed Jorge Posada and ended the game and the series.

Whitney wants me to get the Extra Innings package, and I guess a true baseball fan probably should spring for it, but my heart may not survive 58 more games. I get waaay too invested in live Sox games, to the detriment of my furniture, nervous system, and family. I'll do it, but you can't say I didn't warn you.

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