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2001: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 9, Twins 4
The last game I had been to in Fenway Park was 42 degrees and rainy. But here I was only a couple of weeks later, and the game-time temperature was announced at 83. Before the game, Chris Stynes, who had been injured in the first week of the season, was activated from the D.L. To make room for him on the roster, Lou Merloni was sent to Pawtucket, a fact that surprised me, since Craig Grebeck was still around, and he had only had one hit all month. (The move apparently surprised Merloni, too, who said he heard of his demotion when he read it in the paper.) Paxton Crawford started, and struggled in the first inning. He threw 39 pitches, while eight Twins came to the plate and three of them scored. The Sox got one run back in the bottom of the inning, when Stynes led off with a single and ended up scoring on a wild pitch. At that point Crawford settled down, and didn't allow another run.
In the second inning things got fun. Mike Lansing, Stynes, and Jose Offerman all reached base, setting the stage for Carl Everett to loft one into the screen for a grand slam! (He would hit another grand slam on Friday, his second of the week.) Dante Bichette homered in the fifth, and Everett knocked in another run in the seventh, but it was in the eighth inning that I witnessed the most amazing thing of all. With the Sox ahead 7-4 and Lansing due up, Jimy Williams brought in Grebeck. He'd be used as a defensive replacement and would be able to get an at-bat in. Grebeck led off the inning... with a hit! (And it was a double, too, no less!) It was his second (and last) hit in a year that saw him go a miserable .049. (What made the inning even more improbable is that Darren Lewis followed by going back-to-back with a double of his own and picking up a rare RBI.) Tim Wakefield allowed one run in the final four innings, and picked up the save, as the Sox beat Minnesota 9-4.
Royals 11, Red Sox 8, 11 inn.
This was the day I officially gave up on Jimy Williams. He had apparently already given up on me. The lineup featured Chris Stynes, Trot Nixon, Carl Everett, Manny Ramirez, Troy O'Leary, Scott Hatteberg, Shea Hillenbrand, Brian Daubach, and Mike Lansing. No Dante Bichette, no Jason Varitek, no Jose Offerman. And the following day was a scheduled off-day, so I didn't figure that many people needed to rest all at once. It started off OK, when Super-Manny launched a three-run homer in the first inning. Paxton Crawford struggled in the second, though, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and a walk. Rich Garces was summoned from the bullpen with a 2-2 count on Jermaine Dye. His first pitch to Dye was swung at and missed for strike three - and El Guapo picked up a one-pitch strikeout! Manny hit his second home run of the day in the sixth inning, closing the gap to 6-4 Royals.
El Guapo was followed to the mound by Pete Schourek (2 scoreless innings), Rod Beck (1 inning, 1 run), and Rolando Arrojo (1 scoreless innning). Meanwhile a Kansas City error, a Hatteberg homer, and a Ramirez groundout plated 4 runs in the seventh. They had the chance for more, when Lansing came to bat with two outs and two on base. He had already flied out and popped out with runners in scoring position that day, and Grebeck was available to replace him at shortstop in the next inning. Bichette, Varitek, and Offerman all were hitting better than Lansing at that point in the season, but all were still on the bench. (When K.C. brought in a lefty reliever in the sixth it was Darren Lewis rather than Dante Bichette who pinch-hit for Troy O'Leary.) But Jimy let Lansing hack away, and he grounded to short to kill the rally and end the inning. What we couldn't believe was that Grebeck still came in in the top of the eighth to replace Lansing in the field. If he was going to use up Grebeck anyway, why not give a better hitter the chance to add some insurance? When your bullpen's been working since the second inning and your closer's struggling, why assume that a one-run lead is enough? Jimy seemed to think it would hold up. And at the end of the eighth, it was still Sox 8, Royals 7.
Arrojo had pitched well in the eighth, and Derek Lowe was the only other pitcher available, since Tim Wakefield had thrown 3 1/3 innings the day before. In Section 8, we wanted Arrojo to stay in and close out the game. But Jimy gave Lowe, whose confidence had been completely shattered when he blew a couple of games in the previous week, the chance to redeem himself. Unfortunately, he served up a homer to Jermaine Dye, and the game was tied. In the bottom of the ninth, Hillenbrand and Daubach reached base with two outs, and up to bat strode... you guessed it, Craig Grebeck. Tie game, 2 outs, guys on first and second, and Grebeck - batting .059 - came up. We were astounded! If they don't score and the game goes to extra innings, who's going to pitch? What's wrong with letting Varitek or Bichette take a swing? They had the following day off, let them rest then! My brother yelled out in his most threatening tone, "Jimy, if you let Grebeck bat for himself, I'm coming down there!" I hoped maybe it would turn out to be a magic Fenway moment, where the unlikeliest of heroes would hit a game-winning walk-off homer, like Rico Brogna's grand slam the year before. But it was not to be. Grebeck did get to bat. The result? Grounder to the shortstop, who flipped to second to force Daubach. Into the tenth we go.
The tenth inning passed without incident, and Lowe pitched into the eleventh. With two outs, he threw a nice fat pitch to Joe Randa, who knocked it over the Monster to give the Royals an 11-8 lead. Varitek finally got to bat in the bottom of the eleventh, but by then it was too late.
Losing a game is one thing. Losing it when you had every opportunity to win is another. Maybe Jimy had his reasons. Maybe Varitek was sick. Maybe Lansing had hit that pitcher well in the past. Maybe Lowe begged for the chance to pitch. But Jimy didn't offer any explanation after the game except, "Grebeck could have got a hit."
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