Friday, June 30, 2006

Murder (or a Heart Attack)

Game 76 – Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Mets 2
Record: 48-28

Whitney may not see things the same way, perhaps a bit jagged from the events of the past 3 days, or soggy from the region’s blinding sheets of rain, but last night’s game was a classic. Coco Crisp was the Sox’ four leaf clover, starring at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field and perhaps finally winning his way into the Nation’s heart after a standoffish start for the new kid.

Curt Schilling and Tom Glavine both lived up to their reputations for 5 sublime innings, matching each other zero for zero. After Carlos Beltran finally solved Schilling in the top of the 6th (with an absolute timebomb to dead center), I was sort of resigned to the fact that the Sox couldn’t keep winning indefinitely – they’d have to lose at some point, so it might as well be to Whit’s team.

The cumulative impact of age and a lot of pitches got to Glavine in the 6th, with the other shoe dropping as he first gave up a homer to Loretta then a double to Papi. Though it’ll probably be lost in the boxscore agate, Papi’s hustle into 2nd on a ball that might normally have only yielded a single for the big man was a huge play. It was followed by his equally aggressive advance to third on Mike Lowell’s fly to medium centerfield, without which the game-tying run would not have scored on Jason Varitek’s subsequent sacrifice. The masses will demand curtain calls for Papi’s 8th inning blast to center, as well they should, but his command of the fundamental was more important to the outcome of last night’s game.

That same command of the fundamental led directly to the game-winning run in the bottom of the 7th, as Crisp led off with a bunt single, stole second, reached 3rd on Alex Gonzalez’ perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, and scored on Kevin Youkilis’ sacrifice fly to left. A singular sublimely manufactured run from a team that’s clicking on all cylinders. Match that offensive versatility with a defensive effort that now stands with the best of all time (last night was the Sox’ 16th consecutive errorless game, which ties the major league record) and the Sox are playing the best all-around baseball of my lifetime, and perhaps of the franchise’s history.

All of that terrific baseball might have been for naught if it weren’t for one of the amazing defensive plays in my memory. With 2 out in the top of the 8th and the speedy Beltran on first, David Wright lined a bullet to left-center off of Mike Timlin. Double, game tied, fuck were the thoughts that immediately went through the head of this nervous guy. Crisp had shaded Wright to right-center against the hard-throwing Timlin, and the NESN cameras showed him in a dead sprint toward the Monster at the crack of the bat. Just before the ball screamed past him for a game-altering extra-base hit, Coco laid out in full horizontal flight position, reaching his glove hand up and behind himself to snare Wright’s drive with the last bit of momentum left in his frantic gallop. Timlin’s reaction was priceless, moments away as he was from shedding some West Texas teardrops. “Ohhh! Wow! Yeah!”, roared the veteran reliever, who’s seen some stuff in his day and doesn’t strike this observer as a terribly emotional guy. “Holy Shit!” was my equally prosaic utterance. Whit’s was almost certainly something different, at least in tone.

Jonathan Papelbon resumed his ridiculous season, mowing the Mets – well on their way to a much-deserved cryin’ drunk – down in the 9th to preserve the win and the sweep. 12 in a row now for the Sox, and a 4-game lead in the division. It’s a bit early in the season to feel like king of all of the world, but I’m not gonna question the emotion now – the Sox are on an unbelievable roll. Whit might not believe the sincerity, but let the idiot speak: I do feel a little twinge of guilt that it had to come at the expense of his Metros. Only a little, as their 11-game advantage over the dreck in the NL East has been seriously aided by the Sox’ 14-1 run through the division. Nice league you got there. The good guys may need to up the devil’s pay to continue this run, but it’s a hell of a ride for the moment.

After a somewhat surreal 3 games that left me positively giddy about the Sox, and a bit (only a bit) bummed for my buddy and his lonely holiday, the final tally reads 3 wins for the Sox, 3 losses for the Mets, and 96 beers on the plus side of the ledger for me. Far be it for me to tell Whit what to do, but it’s clear that the appropriately literary thing to do would be to add one more something special to the haul, something aged, perhaps. An old 97, if you will.

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