Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Game 104 – Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Indians 8
Record: 63-41

Just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in.

I watched last night’s game in a state of nothing so much as ambivalence about the Sox’ fate. I made peace with the decision to stand pat for 2006, figuring the Sox have a shot and that’s all that reasonable fans can hope for in any given year and grudgingly approving of the strategy of protecting homegrown young talent. I muttered disapprovingly but calmly as David Wells’ looping curveballs were sent deep into the New England night by any number of Tribesmen, then lay stoically on the couch as a succession of mediocre Cleveland relief pitchers kept the Sox trailing, 8-6, through the game’s middle innings and into the 9th.

As the bottom of the final frame approached, I allowed myself the smallest of indulgences. “Just 1 guy needs to get on to give Papi a chance. That’s all I’m asking – give Papi a chance.” Had I not been alone in my living room, someone might have heard me sing that last line like John and Yoko did.

When first Alex Cora reached on a leadoff single to left, then Kevin Youkilis followed with a walk, the hook was set. I asked Mark Loretta to get out or get on – no bunting, and no double plays, either of which would take the drama out of Papi’s hands. I’ve never been happier to see a Red Sox batter pop out to short.

As Papi ambled to the plate, his legs looking too skinny to support his great barrel of an upper body, the Fenway crowd rose in expectation to greet him. Me, I tried really hard to prepare for the inevitable disappointment. “It’s too much to ask.” I said. “He has to get out one of these times.”

Ball 1 from Fausto Carmona, and then a second wayward offering. “Impossible,” I whispered under my breath. The 2-0 offering was a fastball, middle of the plate, maybe a little bit away. As soon as Papi uncoiled and lashed out at it, I knew it was gone and so did the 35,000+ in Fenway. Grady Sizemore turned and ran back towards the centerfield wall, but the upraised arms of the fans in the bleachers told the story even before the ball landed in their midst.

“Unbelievable,” I yelled into the silence in my darkened house, everyone else long since in bed. I walked around my living room holding my head in my hands and muttering that single word aloud. “Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

So I guess the lesson is this: any team with that guy on its roster has a chance, flawed though it may be. Alright, you magnificent bastard, I’m in. I know you have to fail in the clutch at some point, but I’m done expecting it.

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