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2002: Diary of a Season

Tuesday, May 21, Fenway Park, Section 32

White Sox 8, Red Sox 3

Nomar waits for the pitch

I was back two days later for another Tuesday night game. It would have been Frank Castillo's turn in the rotation, but he had been suspended for "intentionally" hitting a batter in Tampa Bay earlier in the month. The suspension was pretty ridiculous, because Tampa pitcher Ryan Rupe had already drilled Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand - both of whom had had big hits earlier in the series. Castillo got a five-game suspension, while Rupe was not suspended at all. The end result was that for today's game, Castillo had dropped his appeal and was sitting out, while Darren Oliver was called upon to pitch on only three days' rest.

I start every trip to Fenway thinking that it could turn out to be a fun game, even if it might not look that way on paper beforehand. I thought back to the game I had been to a few weeks earlier. I had been looking forward to seeing Pedro pitch, but a rainout pushed him back and I had to see Oliver instead. He wound up pitching a shutout that night, so I figured maybe this one would turn out OK, too. After all, the Red Sox were really on a roll, and everything seemed to be going their way.

Unfortunately, my optimism didn't last long. Oliver walked the first batter, and then gave up three straight hits. It was 3-0 before the first inning was over, and Oliver didn't make it out of the fifth. Rolando Arrojo and Sun Kim came in, but they were no better. The Red Sox got one run in the second, when Johnny Damon was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Later, Doug Mirabelli and Nomar Garciaparra added solo homers, but I never had the feeling that they were going to get back in it. No one on the Red Sox even reached base after the fifth inning.

In the second inning, two large ducks flew in and circled over the field. "Are those ducks?" a guy near me asked. "More like buzzards," someone nearby quipped. The ducks swooped down as if they were going to land on the field, and people were actually calling, "Come on, land!" They flew off without landing, and a bunch of people booed. It's not a good sign when a wildlife sighting is the highlight of the game. Sadly, this game was so bad that it would have actually been enhanced if a couple of ducks had landed on the field.

Sunday, May 26, Fenway Park, Section 10

Yankees 14, Red Sox 5

This was the day it became apparent that my idea of purchasing tickets for mostly Sundays and Tuesdays may not have been the best idea. The previous season I had gone to mostly weekend games, but I thought this time I'd break it up a little bit, and keep the end of the week and my Saturdays free. The problem is that unless there is a scheduled day off or a rainout, Tuesday night's pitcher goes again five days later on Sunday. That meant I was going to see my second straight Darren Oliver outing.

The Red Sox went into the game with a three-game lead over the Yankees in the A.L. East. Since I had been here last, they had had some very exciting games. Thursday night, Pedro Martinez pitched a masterpiece, beating the Yankees 3-1. On Friday, the Red Sox knocked Roger Clemens out in the third inning while taking an 8-2 lead, then let the Yankees tie it up 8-8, and finally won the game on a Carlos Baerga sac fly in the tenth. Saturday Derek Lowe lost 3-2, and now on Sunday the two teams were facing off on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

The Sox take batting practice Oliver had pitched well in a game against the Yankees in April, and had a 6-1 career record against them, but he had really begun to struggle in the month of May. He did well in the first two innings, and Brian Daubach and Shea Hillenbrand hit back-to-back homers (off Mike Mussina - at least I wouldn't have to watch a perfect game attempt this time!) in the second for a 2-0 lead. But each inning got progressively worse. The Yankees loaded the bases in the third but didn't score. In the fourth, Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer to tie the game. In the fifth, Oliver completely melted down, allowing a solo homer, a walk, a single, a three-run homer, and another single, before being removed from the game. Tim Wakefield came in, and gave up a homer to the first batter he faced before finally retiring the side. The score was now 8-2, Yankees.

I was able to remain optimistic, though, because I remembered Friday night's game, when the Yankees had caught up after the Sox took an 8-2 lead. It was time to turn the tables and do a little catching up of our own. Sure enough, the Red Sox scored three times in the bottom of the inning, making it 8-5. Unfortunately, the comeback never made it any further than that. Wakefield gave up another homer in the sixth, and Sunny Kim allowed five runs, including another homer, in the eighth. The Red Sox managed only three more baserunners the rest of the game. I wear glasses for distance, and I had them on that night because I was almost in the back row of section 10, in shallow right field. I would never leave a game early, but it was getting painful to watch. I took my glasses off for the ninth inning so I at least wouldn't have to see the end of the game. It didn't help. The Red Sox lost 14-5.

Normally when I go to games, I park in Newton and ride the Green Line in. But on Sunday nights the T only runs until midnight. With an ESPN start time of 8:05, there was the possibility that the game could run late. I had been to a game a couple of years ago that ended well after midnight because of rain delays, and I didn't want to get stuck having to take a cab all the way back to Newton. So this time I had parked at a station closer to Fenway Park, but it involved switching to the Orange Line. The game was done before midnight, but I had to wait a half hour at Haymarket to switch from the Green Line to the Orange, then ride to my stop, then drive an hour home. It's no problem at all if the Sox have just won, but it's a lot less fun if they've lost.

Sunday, June 9, Fenway Park, Section 10

Diamondbacks 7, Red Sox 3

I was back in Section 10 two weeks later for another "Value Pack" game. When I requested the package through the mail, I asked for left field grandstand. Apparently Sections 32 and 33 were already filled, so they gave me right field grandstand instead. The tickets are the same price, but the seats in right field aren't as good. They're actually a little better further back where I was, though, because of the angle.

In the past two weeks, the Red Sox had continued their league-leading road record. They swept Toronto, took two out of three in New York, and won three out of four in Detroit. But since returning home, they had dropped the first two games to Arizona. Today's matchup was John Burkett against Rick Helling, who had pitched together for the Texas Rangers a few years ago. Since then, Burkett had had two successful seasons with the Braves, while Helling had struggled. I had been to a game against Texas last year in which Helling had pitched and the Red Sox had won in a blowout, and I was hoping for a similar game today.

The Diamondbacks never had a big inning, but they scored single runs in the second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth. The Red Sox got one run in the fifth when Jason Varitek led off the inning with a bunt single, moved up on a single and a fly ball, and scored on a sacrifice fly. Brian Daubach's two-run double in the eighth finally knocked Helling out, but the Red Sox were done scoring.

There was one item of general baseball interest in the seventh inning. After two quick outs, Arizona second baseman Junior Spivey hit a long fly ball to center field, near the 379-foot marker on the base of the Green Monster. Johnny Damon went back against the wall and leaped, and it looked like it would be another one of his highlight-reel catches. Instead, the ball hit The Wall just out of his reach, and bounced back onto the field. Daubach was in left field, and he ran over to field it and slipped momentarily. Spivey was still running, rounding third as Daubach threw it to Nomar Garciaparra, who fired home. There was a glimmer of hope when Spivey missed tagging home plate, but he got back just in time to avoid Varitek's tag. It was the first inside-the-park home run at Fenway since Nomar's in 1998, and the first I've ever seen in person.

Tuesday, June 11, Fenway Park, Section 35

Colorado 3, Red Sox 1

Removing the tarp

This was another Tuesday night game, and the first of several in which I had a great seat in the bleachers. I was in Section 35, which is one of the sections in straight-away center that's blocked off during the day to provide a better hitting backdrop. It's also directly behind the center fielder, which makes it easy to cheer for Johnny Damon or to heckle the other team's fielder.

We didn't have to wait long to cheer for Johnny. He made a nice sliding catch for the first out of the game. He had another web gem in the fifth, and when he returned to the field at the start of each inning, he always got a lot of cheers. The game started an hour late after a rain delay. It was scoreless through three innings, and the Red Sox had Carlos Baerga and Nomar Garciaparra on base to start the fourth, when the rain got worse again and the tarp was pulled back out onto the field. One of the new things about Fenway this year is that the gate in the concourse that used to block the bleachers off from the rest of the park was left open during games. That meant that instead of sitting in the rain or huddling with thousands of other people underneath the stands where I can't even see the field, I could go sit in the outfield grandstand under the roof and wait for the game to start. After another half hour delay, the game resumed, but Brian Daubach hit into a double play and Shea Hillenbrand struck out to end the threat. Daubach had been on one of his hot streaks when Manny Ramirez first got hurt, but he had cooled off lately, and Manny's absence was beginning to show.

Rolando Arrojo pitched well for the Red Sox. He had been added to the rotation when Darren Oliver was banished to the bullpen. Unfortunately, Brian Jennings was pitching just as well for the Rockies. All of the runs in the game were scored off relievers in the eighth inning. Colorado got three off Casey Fossum. The Sox put together a Jason Varitek double and a Jose Offerman single to plate one against Todd Jones, but couldn't muster any more.

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