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2005: Diary of a Season

Monday, September 5, Fenway Park, Section 38

White Sox 5, Red Sox 3

The next day the Red Sox finished up their four-game sweep of the Devil Rays, and they went on to take two of three from the Orioles over the weekend. Monday was Labor Day, and it was the makeup game from the rainout on August 14. My parents drove back down from Maine (with gas prices at their all-time high a week after Hurricane Katrina), but the weather was much better this time - bright and sunny, not too hot and not too cold. Curt Schilling was starting against 22-year-old rookie Brandon McCarthy. This was only Curt's third start since rejoining the rotation. He probably wasn't ready yet, but with September here, he needed time to get stretched out so he'd be able to go seven or eight innings by the time the playoffs started. Keith Foulke had just come off the D.L. a couple of days earlier, but wasn't ready to close yet. Mike Timlin was serving as closer for the time being, but that of course left a hole in the setup spot.

Curt's pitch Both pitchers started well. Trot Nixon's ground rule double in the second was the first hit of the game, but he wasn't able to advance. Geoff Blum led off the third with a triple, but a grounder to third, a walk and subsequent pickoff of Scott Podsednik, and a nice catch of a line drive by Edgar Renteria prevented him from scoring. The White Sox finally broke through with a run on a double and a single in the fourth. They extended their lead with two more runs, including one on a squeeze play, in the fifth. In the sixth, Paul Konerko's homer made it 4-0. The Red Sox never did get anything going against McCarthy. David Ortiz walked in the fourth, Gabe Kapler singled in the fifth, and Manny Ramirez singled in the sixth, but that was it.

Curt made it into the seventh, but he was done when the first three batters reached base (although Juan Uribe was thrown out attempting to steal). Foulke came in and struck out Carl Everett and got Konerko to ground out to end the inning. Foulke was back out for the eighth, when he hit Aaron Rowand but otherwise pitched a good, clean inning. Chad Harville, who had been released by the Astros and signed by the Red Sox as they searched for someone - anyone - who could get batters out in the middle innings, pitched the ninth. He gave up a homer to Uribe on his first pitch of the game. With McCarthy finally out of the game, the Red Sox attempted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Trot reached on an error, Kevin Millar doubled, and Tony Graffanino launched a three-run homer to finally get the Red Sox on the board. But that was as close as they would get, and they ended up losing 5-3. When the original game was rained out, the score had been 5-2, and all the effort made by both teams to reschedule and the fans to pay the transportation and parking costs a second time seemed like a lot to go through just to lose by a slightly closer score.

Thursday, September 8, Fenway Park, Section 40

Angels 3, Red Sox 0

The Red Sox beat the Angels the next two nights, including Big Papi's walkoff home run on Tuesday night. We were back on Thursday in our Tenth Man Plan seats. It was great that they had filled in the permanent puddle earlier in the season, but in Row 5 we still had trouble seeing over the fence behind the bullpen. The people behind us in Row 6 are season ticket holders, and are usually not late getting to their seats. So when the game started and they hadn't arrived yet, we moved back a row into their seats. It's funny, but that one row makes such a difference. Instead of having to stretch to see over the railing and getting annoyed every time someone walks past in front of us and blocks the view, we could relax and enjoy seeing the whole field. Before the game, a child is always selected to say "Play ball" after the National Anthem. Tonight that honor went to Trot Nixon's son Chase, who would be celebrating his fourth birthday over the weekend.

Trot makes the catch Matt Clement was going up against Paul Byrd, and the game started well. Clement retired the first nine batters he faced, but in the fourth, Chone Figgins and old friend Orlando Cabrera hit back-to-back doubles to score the first run of the game. The next batter was Garret Anderson, and he hit one down the line right toward Pesky's Pole. But Trot Nixon reached into the stands for a great catch, then threw back into the infield, where Cabrera was out trying to advance. (The replay of Trot's catch from the scoreboard is pictured here.) Everything was fine until the seventh, when Clement hit the first batter and gave up singles to the next two. That made it 2-0, and a couple of groundouts later it was 3-0. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but Scot Shields struck out Manny Ramirez (pinch-hitting for Tony Graffanino), Edgar Renteria, and David Ortiz to end the inning. In the ninth, Nixon's hit and walks to Jason Varitek and Bill Mueller loaded the bases again, but strikeouts of John Olerud and Kevin Millar left it up to pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine, who struck out to end the game. The season ticket holders in Row 6 never showed up, so we got to stay in their seats the whole time. I wondered if they were also season ticket holders for the Patriots and had elected to go to that game instead. It was the first game of the year for the Pats, and they were raising their banner after their latest Super Bowl victory. We got an update on that score during our game; they were up 10-7. We also saw on the scoreboard that the Devil Rays were beating the Yankees, so even with the loss, the Red Sox maintained their four game lead.

Thursday, September 15, Fenway Park, Section 41

A's 6, Red Sox 2

The Red Sox went on the road, where they dropped two of three to the Yankees, then won two of three over the Blue Jays. They came into tonight's game with a 2.5 game lead in the East. It had rained all afternoon, but was just letting up as 7:05 approached. There was a 45 minute rain delay before the start of the game, but we didn't get any more rain once it started. Curt Schilling was pitching, but he didn't start well. The A's opened the game with three straight hits for a 2-0 lead. Jay Payton, who had spent the whole first half of the season scheming to get out of Boston, was booed when he came to the plate. Curt struck him out and got out of the inning without any further damage. The Red Sox got hits from David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the first but couldn't score. Big Papi was serenaded with "MVP" chants every time up. As the Red Sox entered the stretch run, he had taken an already prolific season and somehow managed to turn it up a notch. In the three-game series in Toronto, he had hit four home runs, two of which were game-winners. No one in the American League - at any offensive or defensive position - was more instrumental to his team's success.

Fenway Park Three hits plated another run for Oakland in the second. They loaded the bases in the third, but Curt was able to get out of it. (In the fifth inning I noticed a girl a couple of rows in front of us knitting. That was something I had never seen before! She was wearing a Red Sox jersey and hat, so it didn't look like she was someone who didn't like baseball and was dragged along by friends. Maybe she was using it as a way to relax during stressful situations; the games of the past week had certainly been nerve-wracking enough. We joked that if she was a season ticket holder and started knitting on Opening Day, she'd have a blanket big enough for the whole row by the time the cool nights of the playoffs rolled around!) In the sixth, Johnny Damon, back after taking three days off with a recurrence of his shoulder injury, doubled. One out later, Big Papi knocked him in with a sac fly.

Curt was done after giving up another run in the seventh. The Sox got one back on a walk, a hit, and Damon's groundout, but The A's got two more off Mike Myers and Chad Bradford in the eighth. In the ninth, Bill Mueller hit a drive off the top of the wall in center field near the cameras. It was ruled a double, but looked like it had been over the wall for a home run. Terry Francona came out to argue, but to no avail. Tony Graffanino grounded out to end the game and strand Mueller at second.

Sunday, September 18, Fenway Park, Section 40

A's 12, Red Sox 3

Batting practice The Red Sox won one-run games on Friday (thanks to a game-tying homer by Big Papi) and Saturday (thanks to a tie-breaking homer by Manny), and I was back on Sunday for the conclusion of the series against he A's. I arrived in time to watch the Red Sox take batting practice, but sadly, that was the best part of the day. Matt Clement went against Kirk Saarloos, and it didn't go well. The A's opened with five straight hits, scoring three runs. Jay Payton, booed by Red Sox fans all weekend for the way he left the team, knocked in a fourth run with a fielder's choice. David Ortiz doubled in the bottom of the inning but was left stranded. In the second, Eric Chavez's two-run homer capped a three-run inning which made it 7-0 Oakland and knocked Clement from the game. Jeremi Gonzalez finished up the inning and held the A's scoreless in the third and fourth. But in the fifth, he gave up a two-run homer to Marco Scutaro and a three-run homer to Chavez, for a downright ugly 12-0 deficit.

In the sixth, it started to feel like a spring training game, with Doug Mirabelli coming in to catch and September call-ups Adam Hyzdu and Alejandro Machado playing left field and center field respectively. Bill Mueller finally got the Red Sox on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, but Kevin Youkilis replaced him at third base for the top of the seventh. The first batter of the inning grounded out to third, but Youk injured his ring finger making the play. That set off a merry-go-round of defensive changes. Alex Cora, who had started the day at short, moved to third. Machado moved from center field to shortstop. Hyzdu moved from left field to center. Roberto Petagine entered the game to play left. Keith Foulke, still rehabbing and not back in the closer role yet, pitched well in the sixth and seventh (of course by then he was facing Oakland's call-ups).

In the bottom of the seventh, Machado led off with a double, to pick up his first major league hit. Two batters later, Tony Graffanino's double drove him in. Cora singled and was erased on Hyzdu's fielder's choice, but Petagine's single knocked in another run. Catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, who was 0-for-10 in the majors, pinch-hit for Ortiz and flied out to center in both of his at-bats. Lenny DiNardo and Chad Harville pitched 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth, but the only redeeming factor of today's game was that the Yankees lost to the Bue Jays, so the Red Sox maintained their slim 1.5-game lead in the division.

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