Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Game 15 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 6
Record: 10-5

Ridiculously good hitting looked for all the world like it was going to beat good pitching last night, as the Yankees took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the 8th. In a heartbeat, timely hitting topped legendary pitching as the Sox plated 5 in the inning to grab a surprising lead. Finally, unknown pitching quieted otherworldly hitting to secure the unlikely victory for the forces of good.

I sent the following text message to Whitney after Alex Rodriguez' second homer of the evening landed in the Sox bullpen (along with Coco Crisp): "Arod. Jesus." Even now, I'm not sure whether I meant to express amazement at his current level of play, or imply that he is in fact the Son of God. Curt Schilling pitched fairly well despite mediocre stuff by his standards, "pitched" being the operative word. I hope Ebby Calvin was paying attention to the way Schill battled through 7 innings with not much more than his guile. If not for A-Rod's incendiary bat, Schill would've kept the Yankee lineup in check. Instead, No. 38 allowed 5 earned runs on 8 hits, with 4 of those tallies coming courtesy of A-Rod's equal opportunity blasts to left and right in the 4th and 5th innings, respectively.

When A-Rod scored on Jason Giambi's 8th-inning single to give the Yanks a 6-2 edge, I began mentally composing this post as an appreciation of the Yankee thirdbaseman and his gone-plaid start to the season. Even when Papi roped a double to left-center (arriving at second like a jumbo airliner trying to land in particularly windy conditions, bouncing and skittering to a halt) and Manny coaxed a walk, I only raised an eyebrow. J.D. Drew's grounder to second became the innings first out, brought Mike Lowell to the plate, and caused me to text, "Sox 6-9 are poop" to friend of MLC T.J. Doyle of Gheorghe: The Blog. Part reverse psychology, but mostly honestly held belief that Lowell, Jason Varitek, Crisp, and Dustin Pedroia/Alex Cora really don't strike fear in the hearts of many opposing hurlers.

Lowell slapped a seeing-eye groundball to left to plate Papi and bring the tying run to the plate, and I began to sit forward on the couch. Yankee skipper brought Mariano Rivera into the game to face Varitek, and my first thought was, "Good, maybe that'll wear him down for the rest of the series". Tek took the count to 1-1, fouled off three straight cutters, and then laced a high fastball to right to close the gap to 6-4. Crisp tripled down the line to right on the next pitch, even before I had a chance to lament his noodle bat, tying the game and sending Fenway into a very un-April-like frenzy.

With still only one out on the scoreboard, the Yankees drew in their infield with Crisp on third, only to watch Cora perfectly reenact Luis Gonzalez' 2001 World Series-winning single off of Rivera. Crisp scampered home with the go-ahead run, and I made way too much noise for someone with two sleeping kids.

Jonathan Papelbon's heavy workload over the previous two days rendered him unavailable, so Terry Francona bypassed the obvious options and brought Hideki Okajima in to try to close things out against New York's formidable 2-3-4 of Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and A-Rod. As the assembled masses of Japanese journalists gave silent thanks for a non-Matsuzaka story line, Okajima retired Jeter on a grounder to second. Abreu, though, worked a walk to bring Rodriguez/Jesus to the plate as the go-ahead run. My heart rate was approaching October levels, so I can't imagine what the slightly-built Okajima felt as he peered in at the best player on the planet. After falling behind 3-1, and eliciting a strained "Just walk him and take your chances with Thompson" from me, Okajima threw a sublime curve for a called strike and busted A-Rod in on the hands with a fastball to induce a soft liner to second. Big rice balls for the Sox' less-heralded Japanese import. Okajima overmatched Kevin Thompson, striking the Yankee reserve out on a dipping splitter to end the game and bring the Fenway crowd to release - and that's probably not too much of an overstatement.

The Sox sported green jerseys in a regular-season game for the first time in history in honor of the late Red Auerbach and his contribution to Boston sports. Bob Cousy threw out the first pitch - behind his back, natch. I'm usually not a huge fan of uniform gimmickry, but the kelly green looked good on the Sox, and clearly has some karmic value.

Obviously a big win, made moreso by the pressure it lifts from Beckett's shoulders as he takes the ball this afternoon. Not a true playoff atmosphere in April, but as I texted to the lads, "You're not gonna see a much better ballgame in April". Of course, as T.J. accurately replied, "You're only saying that because you won." He's pretty smart for a Yankee fan.

Here's what Schilling himself had to say about the win in his blog at (I'd link to it more traditionally, but Blogger and the Safari browser don't really get along):

"Common theory amongst many baseball people is that you win 50, you lose 50 and what you do in those other 62 is what determines the season. The last two nights we won games that should have been in the ‘lose 50’ column. That’s big no matter what day on the calendar it is, or who they happen against."

I'm pretty sure I invented that theory. I'm a legend in my own mind.

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