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2001: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 11, Devil Rays 4
I've been to Opening Day games twice before, both springs that I lived in Atlanta. But this was my first in friendly Fenway! The Red Sox had opened the season with three games in Baltimore. They lost the opener in heartbreaking fashion, blowing a beautiful Pedro start and losing it in the tenth. They won the next game, when Hideo Nomo pitched the first Red Sox no-hitter since 1965. After dropping the third game, they returned home to play the Devil Rays on a chilly April afternoon. While I traditionally wound up with a sunburn at my Turner Field openers, this morning I parked at the T station with my car half in a snowbank and half in a mud puddle. I arrived at Fenway early, and made my way to the last row of section 32. It was a cold, raw, overcast day (official game-time temp 49, although it felt colder), but I couldn't have been in better spirits. This was our first chance to see the 2001 Red Sox (the new and improved Red Sox - for surely with Manny Ramirez there was no way we could lose!) and I was going to be there to personally welcome them, along with 33,524 of my closest friends. The people who attend Opening Day are the true diehards, people who go to great lengths to get tickets. People who think nothing of sitting for hours in the cold. And I didn't see a single hat, jersey, or jacket with an interlocking N and Y. As the players were introduced, the biggest cheers went up for Pedro (of course), Manny (naturally), Bryce Florie (who was recovering from an eye and face injury after having been struck by a line drive the previous September), and Nomo (who had no-hit the Orioles two days earlier). Nomar Garciaparra had undergone wrist surgery four days earlier, and was not with the team.
Tomo Ohka pitched for the Sox, and gave up a hit to the first batter he faced. "Oh great," I groaned. The Sox had yet to win a game in which they had given up a hit. When the Devil Rays were done hitting, it was already 3-0 Tampa Bay. In the home half, Trot Nixon led off with a walk, Jose Offerman singled, and Carl Everett struck out. That brought to the plate the Red Sox' newest hero, RBI machine Manny Ramirez, who didn't wait long to make an impression on the Fenway fans. He drove the first pitch he saw over the Green Monster, and instantly the game was tied! (I must have still been cheering Manny when Troy O'Leary and Jason Varitek batted, because they got question marks on my scorecard.) Meanwhile Ohka settled down and pitched three scoreless innings before being replaced by Tim Wakefield to start the fifth. It was probably a pitch count thing, combined with the weather and the fact that the Sox had scored five more runs.
Behind the left field grandstand is a brick wall, but it's just a chain link fence from there to the foul pole. Our seats in the last row were as high up as the top of The Wall, and the wind was really swirling around. In the fourth inning a light rain started, making it very cold - but I guess freezing is half the fun of Opening Day. The other half would come from a Red Sox victory, and, after scoring three more times in the eighth, the Sox gave us just that. Freezing drizzle or no freezing drizzle, it was spring now. The Sox were home, Manny had 4 RBI, and all was once again right with the world.
Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 0
I returned to Fenway two days later for the conclusion of the Devil Rays series, with Pedro Martinez scheduled to start. I never thought I'd be so excited to see two games against Tampa Bay, but the home opener and a Pedro start will do that to a person! We also had the chance to boo Gerald Williams, who had started a brawl in Pedro's one-hitter in Tampa Bay last August. Williams hadn't played in Friday's game, but he led off Sunday with a strikeout, which was all we needed to start the day in a festive mood. Pedro struck out the side in the first and the second, allowing two walks but no hits. In the bottom of the first, Manny Ramirez knocked in a run, and we figured that would be all the support Pedro would need. Even from way out in right field, we could tell he was making the hitters look silly. Tampa Bay shortstop Felix Martinez led off the sixth inning with a hit, the first Pedro gave up all day. He struck out the side again in the seventh, and at the end of eight innings he had a total of 16 K's. The temperature was only 42 at the start of the game, and again it was drizzling (and this time our seats weren't under the roof). But for some reason I wasn't as cold as I had been at the opener. Maybe it's because the wind wasn't as bad, or maybe it's just that Pedro is so much fun to watch that nothing else matters. The Sox tacked on two more runs, on an Everett double and a Ramirez single, and Lowe came in to close out the game in the ninth. That completed the sweep of the Devil Rays, and the Red Sox ran their record to 4-2.
Braves 4, Phillies 2 (Red Sox 3, Yankees 2, 10 inn.)
OK, so this game didn't technically involve the Red Sox, but I was in Atlanta visiting relatives and got the chance to see the Braves play the Phillies. Randy Wolf started for the Phillies, and I honestly can't remember who started for the Braves. If it was John Burkett, I should have paid attention, since I'll be rooting for him in 2002. It might have been Tom Glavine. I lived in Atlanta for three years, and it seemed every time I went Glavine pitched. But I had more important things to worry about that weekend - back home, the Red Sox were hosting the Yankees for four games. Friday night's game was the first meeting between the two teams this season, and I kept my eyes fixed firmly on Turner Field's out-of-town scoreboard. The Red Sox game started at 6:05, and the Braves at 7:40, so there wasn't much to break my concentration early on. Paxton Crawford started for the Sox, with a Pedro-Clemens matchup scheduled for the following day. I watched as the Yankees scored a run in the third and the Red Sox tied it in the fifth. The game went to extra innings, but the Yankees scored off Derek Lowe in the tenth, making it 2-1, and then they brought Mariano Rivera in. I was starting to feel sick, until the "NYY 2, BOS 1, 10" miraculously changed to "NYY 2, BOS 3, F"! I didn't yet know how or why, but I rejoiced in my seat in Atlanta! I found out later it was Manny Ramirez (again) who had delivered the fatal blow, a two-run single off Rivera. But for now I could relax and enjoy the end of the Braves-Phillies game.
I just looked it up. It was Glavine who pitched for the Braves, and they wound up winning 4-2. I also remember cheering for former Red Sox pitcher Rheal Cormier when he came in to pitch the Phillies' ninth. But the smile plastered on my face as I left Turner Field that night was centered 1000 miles to my north.
Red Sox 8, Yankees 3 I always said I'd never set foot in the place, but a friend invited me to Yankee Stadium for a Red Sox game. I figured it couldn't be any worse than when I had seen them beat the Sox last September at Fenway. Besides, now that I've been there once, I don't have to go back. My pictures and commentary are on the Road Trip to New York page.
Red Sox 8, Yankees 3
I always said I'd never set foot in the place, but a friend invited me to Yankee Stadium for a Red Sox game. I figured it couldn't be any worse than when I had seen them beat the Sox last September at Fenway. Besides, now that I've been there once, I don't have to go back. My pictures and commentary are on the Road Trip to New York page.
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