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2004: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 9, Royals 1
After sweeping the Yankees and Devil Rays to run their early record to 15-6, the Red Sox went on the road and promptly lost five straight to the Rangers and Indians. They finally won the last two games in Cleveland, and returned home to take on the Royals. Friday night's game had been a dramatic, bottom-of-the-ninth win, when Jason Varitek hit a double down the right field line past Pesky's Pole. Kansas City right fielder Juan Gonzalez played it conservatively so it wouldn't get past him for additional bases, but Manny Ramirez was still able to score the winning run, standing up, all the way from first.
Saturday I arrived at the game when the gates opened. From my seat in center field, I watched Pedro Martinez throw his usual between-starts routine in the outfield. When he was done, he went over the the right field stands and started signing autographs. I watched him for over ten minutes, thinking there was no need to go all the way over there because by the time I got there he would be gone. But after a while, I figured I had to at least try. I went down near the right field foul pole and watched as he went around the corner, signing along the way. (He signed mainly hats and ticket stubs, but I did see one person pass him a shoe!) Of course he finished just before he got to where I was standing, and I went back to my seat. I was with two friends today, but this was one of the games where we couldn't get three seats in a row (despite getting them the first day they went on sale), so we were one-behind-the-other in three different rows. It didn't exactly lend itself to easy conversation, but it was better than nothing.
Curt Schilling was pitching, and he cruised along, not allowing a baserunner until Ken Harvey led off the third with an infield single. Mark Bellhorn doubled home Johnny Damon to give the Sox a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third, but Kansas City evened the score on Benito Santiago's homer in the fifth. Pokey Reese came to bat with one out in the bottom of the fifth. He was signed to be the Red Sox' second baseman, but with Nomar Garciaparra's heel injury nagging longer than expected, Pokey had become the everyday shortstop. He hit better than we expected (.262 so far in the season), but it was his sparkling defense that had endeared him to the fans. He lined the ball down the right field line, where it landed just inside the park in front of Pesky's Pole. Juan Gonzalez did not want to wait too long to field the ball the way he had the night before, so he charged it. But the ball got by him, and rolled along, hugging the wall, into the deepest part of right field. As Gonzalez gave chase, Pokey rounded second. He approached third, and I saw third base coach Dale Sveum waving him in! The throw was on its way now, and Pokey slid into home just in time to avoid the tag. "Pokey! Pokey!" we all chanted. It's always exciting to see an inside-the-park home run. Best of all, the Sox now had a 2-1 lead.
The Red Sox broke the game open in the sixth. Kevin Millar and Manny Ramirez hit back-to-back doubles, then Varitek singled home Manny. Tek stole second (his second stolen base of the day) and Bill Mueller singled him home. After Dave McCarty grounded out for the first out of the inning, Mueller was erased on Gabe Kapler's fielder's choice. That brought Pokey back to the plate. He doesn't hit too many home runs, so I remember thinking that if he could get one over the Monster today, that might well be the only way he'd ever have a two-homer game. I almost said this to my friend (I would have if we were sitting next to each other) but we weren't in the same row, so I would have had to lean over and shout across rows, and we were all busy chanting "Pokey" anyway. Sure enough, on a 1-1 count, he lofted one into the Monster seats. It was his second homer of the game, and it was the first two-homer game of his career. I wished I had made that comment out loud to my friend!
Meanwhile, Schilling retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth. He hadn't allowed a walk all day, and he had used a low 104 pitches. McCarty padded the lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, and then Curt came back for the ninth. He had no trouble retiring the final three batters for the win. It was the first complete game by a Red Sox pitcher this year.
After the game, my friends and I went to the Loew's Boston Common theater to see Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie. The full-length film follows eight fans through the ups and downs of the wild 2003 season. It was a humorous and entertaining look at all that's involved in being a Red Sox fan. They had picked a good mix of people to follow. My favorites were the blond girls who sat through the rainy opener (like I had), followed the Sox on the road only to see them lose (been there, done that), and had a hard time getting playoff tickets (done that, too). Even Angry Bill wasn't as offensive as I thought he would be from the promos; by the end of the movie he reminded me more of my cynical but loyal uncle than of the critical WEEI callers I can't stand to listen to.
Indians 10, Red Sox 6
The Red Sox dropped Sunday's game, then I was back Monday as they took on the Cleveland Indians. This was one of the games in the package we purchased which included Opening Day. In the car on the way in, I was listening to WEEI. I heard that Many Ramirez would be out of the lineup tonight, as he flew to Florida to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. I was glad to have heard that ahead of time, so I wouldn't be surprised and outraged when the linueps were announced and he wasn't there. The first pitch was thrown out by Jessamy Finet, one of the fans documented in the Still We Believe movie, who was celebrating her 30th birthday tonight.
Byung-Hyun Kim had been activated from the D.L. a couple of weeks ago, but after five shutout innings in his first game back, he had not been impressive. Tonight he was again shaky, giving up two runs in the first. (And the final out came when Brian Daubach, subbing for Manny in left, threw out a runner attempting to advance to second base, so it could have been worse.) It wasn't long till Johnny Damon's single, Mark Bellhorn's triple, and David Ortiz's hit tied the game up. "Let's go Big Papi!" a guy near me yelled to Ortiz. This was the first time I had heard his new nickname in use at Fenway Park. Apparently Ortiz was fond of greeting his teammates "Hi, papi," so they had dubbed him "Big Papi." The nickname was used a lot on the post-game show, and was catching on with the fans. It was certainly much more fun to chant than "David" or "D.O."
In the second, B.K. gave up another two runs, and this time the final out came on a pickoff at first base, so again it could have been worse. In the third inning, Daubach's two-run double tied it up again. But no sooner had they tied it up than B.K. loaded the bases with one out and was lifted from the game. Lenny DiNardo let two more runs score before getting out of the inning. The Sox pulled to within one run on Daubach's homer in the fifth, and Jason Varitek homered in the seventh, but every time they got close, the bullpen would give up more runs and get them further behind.
There was a commercial for Miller beer that was shown often during games at this point in the season, in which Miller was campaigning to be "President of Beers." The commercial was supposed to be a debate, with a clydesdale at one podium and the Miller spokesperson at the other. As the moderator told him time was up, he ranted, "This is a travesty, and a sham, and a mockery! It's a... traveshamockery!" I decided that tonight's game was a definite traveshamockery! The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was when I returned to my car for the trip home. I normally don't listen to WEEI after a loss, but it was still tuned to that station from the drive in. I hadn't even gotten home from the game yet, and night-time host Ted Sarandis was already reporting that Kim had been demoted to Triple A Pawtucket immediately after the game.
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