Game 82 - Red Sox
Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1
Every season, even the miserable ones, has moments that stick with you, that remind you why you care enough to slog through 162 games with a bunch of guys who'll never be in your kitchen.
Last night, bottom of the 2nd, Kevin Youkilis on 3rd, Mike Lowell on 2nd, Scott Kazmir on the hill trying to get the last out of a long, long inning, but only 1 run across the plate. Julio Lugo comes to the plate mired in a much-discussed 0-for-33 slump.
Boston fans have been oft-maligned, sometimes with good reason, for their manic obsessiveness with the Sox. That borderline pyschotic relationship with the team has translated into some ugly treatment of players past and even present. Lugo's slump, coupled with an extremely boneheaded baserunning effort on Saturday night, gave the Nation all the cause it might normally need to turn on one of the hometown nine.
Strange and a bit heartening then, to hear "Let's Go Lugo" from the crowd on Monday night, and again when the struggling shortstop stepped up in a clutch spot yesterday. And when Lugo's soft liner back through the middle found the outfield grass and cleared the baserunners, the standing ovation from the 36,000+ at Fenway was heartfelt, honest, and emotional. Lugo's teammates leapt from their dugout seats and he fought back a broad smile, ultimately unsuccessfully, as the weight of several worlds lifted from his narrow shoulders. 500 miles away, I didn't try to fight it - I was grinning ear to ear.
Lugo singled again later in the game, then managed to get picked off. And none of us really cared. Say what you may about Sox fans - and much of it will hit close to home - this was a signal moment in demonstrating the Nation's passion for each and every guy holding down a roster spot.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was once again dominant, mowing down the Rays for 8 shutout innings to run his ERA over his past 6 outings to 1.29 (6 ER and 26 hits in 42 IP). He won't be going to the All-Star game, but he's been the best pitcher in the American League since the beginning of June.
Yesterday marked the Sox' first game of the season against division rival Tampa Bay. The Sox will play the Rays 17 more times in the last 80 games of the season - 21% of their remaining schedule. That's more than a bit odd, though I'm not complaining. (But I am knocking furiously on wood).
Timmy Wake takes the ball in 20 minutes - I'm going to get a beer and put my fingers over my eyes. Enjoy your holiday.