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2001: Diary of a Season

Saturday, August 18, Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 5, Orioles 1

The Red Sox had a new look. Two days earlier, manager Jimy Williams had been fired, and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan took over. Joe K. had a different style. First, he didn't mind explaining why he did what he did. And it may have just been a pitching coach trying to prove he cared about offense, but suddenly the team was being more agressive. Guys we used to think of as sluggish were stealing bases. Ugueth Urbina (who was on a roll at the time) was allowed to close instead of Derek Lowe (who was slumping). Doug Mirabelli became the everyday catcher. He and Hatteberg had similar hitting stats, but Mirabelli threw out over four times as many would-be base stealers. Kerrigan let pitchers work into the seventh, which had been a rarity that season, even for those who were healthy. He actually believed in a set lineup, although a new rash of injuries never let him put it into practice. I was overjoyed! It seemed like we'd finally have a chance to see how good this team could be. (Unfortunately, the long-term loss of Nomar, Pedro, and Varitek caught up, and not even common sense could save the season, but it was at least worth a try.)

The rotation had a new look, too. Since the last game I had been to, Rolando Arrojo had gone on the D.L. That allowed Casey Fossum to move from the bullpen into the rotation, and this game was his first major league start. He didn't allow a run in his 4 2/3 innings of work, and in fact only allowed three hits. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were aggressive on the basepaths. Trot Nixon and Troy O'Leary both hit triples. Mike Lansing and Dante Bichette, of all people, each stole a base. After Lansing's homer gave the Sox a 5-1 lead, newly-annointed closer Urbina nailed down the save.

Sunday, August 19, Fenway Park, Section 36

Orioles 13, Red Sox 7

This game had some of everything. The Orioles scored first, getting a run in off Nomo in the second. Troy O'Leary led off the home half of the second with a triple. Lansing was next, and with a 2-2 count, he swung at the next pitch and was called out by the home plate ump. It was hard to tell from the bleachers what had happened, but apparently there was some disagreement over whether it was a check swing or a foul tip. Joe Kerrigan came out to argue the call, which was overturned by the first base ump, and Lansing's at-bat continued. There's nothing necessarily strange about that, but it's not often that an argument leads to an appeal that actually changes the call. That was far from the strangest thing I'd witness that day, but first... Lansing took advantage of the opportunity, and hit an infield single to score O'Leary. Hatteberg walked, and then with Shea Hillenbrand at the plate, Lansing and Hatteberg pulled off a double steal! It was Hatteberg's first career stolen base. After a couple of outs, Nomar walked to load the bases, and then Trot walked to force in a run. That brought up cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez, and clean 'em is just what he did! A Manny homer is not at all a rare occurrence, but this was his first grand slam of the year.

The Orioles scored another run in the top of the third, but the Sox still led, 6-2. In the bottom of the third, Shea Hillenbrand did the unimaginable - he walked! "Hack-Away Shea" would finish the season with only 13 walks, which, out of 493 plate appearances, is a percentage of just .026 - less likely than a Grebeck hit. (And to think I was fortunate enough to see one of each!)

By the fifth, Nomo had nothing left. The Orioles scored three runs on four hits. The second out of the inning was a line drive to third, where Hillenbrand made a great diving catch. After a somersault, the ball dropped out of his glove, and the Orioles tried to argue that it wasn't a catch. Baltimore first base coach Eddie Murray was ejected in the ensuing argument. Rather than bring Nomo back out for the sixth, Kerrigan called on Hipolito Pichardo. Pichardo had just been activated from the D.L. the day before. He struggled, giving up the lead and getting charged with four runs before Rich Garces bailed him out of the inning. I assumed Pichardo was still hurt, and that he had come back from the D.L. too soon. But after the game he and Kerrigan both said he was healthy - and then a couple of days later he retired (at the ripe old age of 31). He just quit, in the middle of the season, without ever saying why.

In the seventh, Sunny Kim gave up a solo homer to David Segui. It landed in Section 35, and a man who was in the front row of Section 36 grabbed it and gave it to his son. The kid had been excited through the whole game, so I knew it was another ball that was going to a good home. It was about that time that two fans ran onto the field. One jumped down from the right field stands, and as security workers chased him, a second guy jumped out of the left field stands. He ran over to the Green Monster and tried to jump and reach the ladder that's used to retrieve balls from the screen over The Wall. Of course the bottom of the ladder is about ten feet up, but that didn't stop him from trying. The first guy hadn't been caught yet, so he ran over, kissed the Green Monster, and then knelt down under the ladder to act as a stepping-stone for the second guy, who was still trying to reach it. The security guards caught up, and after a few more minutes, they finally caught the two guys and took them away. When the game continued, the Red Sox tacked on one more run, and Baltimore added three more in the ninth for a final score of 13-7.

While the Sox ended up losing, it was certainly an entertaining game. The father and son who had gotten the home run ball summed it up. The father started, "We got to see everything today - you got a ball, we saw Manny hit a grand slam, a Hall-of-Famer got ejected..." [Eddie Murray's not in the Hall of Fame yet, but he did have 500 home runs and 3000 hits in his career.] The kid, clutching his baseball and grinning, finished, "and I got to see two people go to jail!"

Saturday, September 1, Fenway Park, Section 42

Yankees 2, Red Sox 1

Retrieving batting practice baseballs Things had not been going well for the Red Sox. Since I had been here last, everything had unraveled. After taking three of four from the Angels, the Sox moved on to Texas. They won Friday's game, but then lost a discouraging 18-inning game on Saturday, which was the beginning of the end. Sunday was Pedro's first start in over two months. He was only a little rusty, and gave up two earned runs in four innings. But once again the bullpen ended up blowing the game. From there they moved on to Cleveland, where they lost all three games, scoring a total of only five runs. When they returned to Fenway to kick off their homestand against New York, they were five games behind the Yankees in the standings. Sweeping the series would put them right back in contention, but anything less would leave them out of the running. So when they lost Friday night's series opener (Frank Castillo out-dueled Roger Clemens through seven innings, but Lowe blew the lead in the eighth, and the Sox managed only one run), all their chances of getting back in the race were basically gone.

The atmosphere for Saturday's game was not what it usually is for a game against the Yankees in September. Red Sox fans were depressed by the six-game losing streak, and the fact that in each of the last three games they had scored only one run. Pedro was scheduled to start, but it was only his second game back after coming off the D.L., so I knew I'd be seeing more of the bullpen than I cared to. I resigned myself to disappointment, but determined to enjoy watching Pedro pitch.

I was, at least, rewarded in that department. Pedro was even better than I imagined he would be: 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 6 K. The Sox had scored one run in the first on Trot Nixon's lead-off homer. If they could hold on, and then win the next day too, the season might not yet be lost. But alas, the bullpen struck again. This time it was Ugueth Urbina who gave up the tying and go-ahead runs. It was the Red Sox' seventh loss in a row, and the fourth consecutive game of only scoring one run.

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