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2005: Diary of a Season

Thursday, April 14, Fenway Park, Section 37

Red Sox 8, Yankees 5

The day after the Ring of the Rings event, the Red Sox resumed their series against the Yankees with Curt Schilling's first start of the year. He had opened the year on the disabled list after off-season ankle surgery. He was probably rushing his return, because he wasn't at his sharpest, and the Sox lost the game. Thursday the teams reconvened for the rubber game of the series. It would be Bronson Arroyo against Randy Johnson. I remember thinking on the way in to the game that every time Arroyo pitched against the Yankees, something strange went down. It was Arroyo who had plunked Alex Rodriguez in the July 24 "brawl game" which had sparked the 2004 team on their late-season run. Then there was the famous slap in Game 6 of the ALCS, when A-Rod knocked the ball out of Arroyo's hand as he tagged him out. So I didn't know what might happen tonight, but I was sure there would be something.

Papa Jack and Tito disagree with the call The first batter of the game, Tony Womack, hit a grounder to shortstop, but Edgar Renteria's throw pulled Kevin Millar off first base. The ump ruled Womack out, however, and Joe Torre came out to argue the phantom tag to no avail. The Yankees got two baserunners in the first, before Arroyo got A-Rod to fly out to end the inning. In the second, Jay Payton, who started in right field against the left-handed Johnson, hit a two-run homer to get the Sox on the board first. The Yankees got a run in the top of the third, but Renteria answered with his own two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, extending the lead to 4-1.

In the fourth inning, Arroyo retired the first batter, gave up a hit, got the second out on a fielder's choice, but then walked three, forcing in a run. All three walks had come on a full count, and were very close calls. The Red Sox players and coaches were upset, and mild-mannered hitting coach Ron Jackson was ejected when one of the umpires thought he could read his lips in the dugout. Papa Jack came out to argue the ejection, and he had to be restrained by Terry Francona. The last thing Tito needed was more stress. He had just been taken to the hospital after having chest pains during the season-opening series in New York. It turned out to be a viral infection, and he remained in the hospital for four days, while bench coach Brad Mills managed the team. Tito made it back for the home opener two days earlier, but this awful umpire certainly wasn't helping the situation! Hideki Matsui and A-Rod followed with singles, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead, but none of this would have happened if the ump had just called strike three instead of ball four on any one of the walks. I wrote on my scorecard, "Horrible horrible umpire - Tito out to argue - The inning should have ended a long time ago," and labeled home plate umpire Greg Gibson a "bum". (It was good to have the scorecard back again, after watching Opening Day without it!)

It was annoying to give up the lead after having scored early against Randy Johnson, but it didn't stay that way long. Jason Varitek hit a solo homer in the bottom of the inning, tying it back up, 5-5. But no sooner had Tek crossed the plate than Gibson was calling Payton out on strike three, a close pitch just like the "ball fours" from the previous inning. Francona came out to argue again, and this time he was tossed. (I wrote in my scorecard the understatement of the night: "Tito is very displeased.") Now he was out and Brad Mills was managing again. He had now managed as many games as Francona this season!

Sheffield goes after a fan The night was cold - 45 at the start, and colder toward the end - and I was wearing every layer of clothing I had brought. The gloves made it hard to keep score and impossible to clap, but it didn't stop us from yelling "Sterrrr-rooooids" every time Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi came to the plate and booing A-Rod at every opportunity. Both pitchers settled down after the tumultous fourth. Arroyo pitched into the sixth, Alan Embree went an inning and a third, and Keith Foulke pitched a scoreless eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees went to the 'pen. I yelled, "Bring in Rivera so we can score some runs!" but with the tie score, it was Tom Gordon who came in. Johnny Damon led off with a single and scored on Renteria's double for a 6-5 lead. Manny Ramirez flied out, and David Ortiz was intentionally walked. Millar's fly ball was the second out of the inning, bringing Varitek to the plate. He lined an extra-base hit into the deepest part of right field. It hugged the wall and rolled as Sheffield gave chase. We couldn't see well from where we were, but it seemed like he took a long time to come up with the ball. Tek wound up at third and both runners scored, Papi coming all the way around from first. At first I thought maybe the ball was stuck in the padding on the wall. Suddenly a bunch of security personnel, police officers, umpires, and players rushed to right field, and it was clear Sheffield was arguing about something. The play was shown over and over on TV later. As Sheffield reached over to pick the ball up, a fan reached his arm over the wall and hit Sheffield in the face. The fan later tried to say he had been reaching for the ball, but any real fan would never do that, since fan interference would have held Papi up at third and cost the Sox a run. But Sheffield didn't exactly cover himself in glory either, since he made sure to shove the fan back before throwing the ball back in to the infield to try to hold Tek to a double. Security was able to quickly get the situation under control, but the incident was replayed and discussed for weeks. The fan had his season tickets revoked for the rest of the year, but Sheffield somehow escaped any kind of suspension for reaching into the stands (though he did get "bum" written next to his name on my scorecard).

When the game resumed, pinch-hitter Trot Nixon struck out to end the inning. Foulke loaded the bases in the ninth (including another controversial walk - "This BB is total B.S.," says my scorecard) but got out of the inning and preserved the 8-5 win. It certainly was an entertaining game!

Sunday, April 17, Fenway Park, Section 40

Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 1

Batting practice When the Yankees left town, the Red Sox took on the Devil Rays. The Sox won big on Friday and Saturday, and when I came back on Sunday they were going for the sweep. It was my first weekend game of the year, so I was able to arrive early, in time to watch the Red Sox take batting practice. It was also my first game in the Tenth Man Plan seats in Section 40. I had bought the plan last year and it was automatically renewed for this year. The problem is that the seats are directly behind the bullpen, so the view is blocked by the fence, especially the railing on the top of the fence, which for someone my height blocks the whole infield. So I have to spend the whole game ducking down below the railing or, if there are tall people in the row in front of me, stretching to see over it. That doesn't bother me as much as the permanent puddle beneath the seats. Because of the slope of the floor, a big puddle forms every day when they hose down the seats to clean them, so it's that way even if it hasn't rained recently. I can't put my purse, camera, or extra sweatshirt under the seat, so I have to hold all that plus my scorecard on my lap, then juggle it all and stand in the puddle every time one of the other sixteen people beyond me in the row wants to get up. I had tried to get the seats changed over the winter. I sent letters, emailed, and called the Red Sox, volunteering to move further back or switch to a different plan if necessary. Of course, I realized I wouldn't be able to move unless someone else chose not to renew their plan, and that wasn't going to happen after winning the World Series. (But they could have at least filled in the puddle!) Last Thursday's "Sheffield game" had also been in the plan, but I traded my fifth row "puddle" seats for that game with some friends who were twenty rows back in Section 37 that night.

Tim Wakefield was going against Scott Kazmir this afternoon. In the first inning, the Devil Rays got runners on second and third with no outs, but Wake got a strikeout, a line drive to first, and another strikeout to get out of the jam. The Sox loaded the bases on three walks in the bottom of the inning, but also didn't score. Tampa Bay pushed across a run on Carl Crawford's single in the top of the second, but that was the last hit they would get all day. Wake breezed through the next four innings, while the Red Sox offense got to work. Edgar Renteria tied it with a solo homer in the third, and Jay Payton knocked in two more runs later in the inning.

The new guys were starting to make their mark. While Edgar had started the season slowly and made a couple of errors already, he had won two Gold Gloves in the past, and I was sure he'd settle in as the season went on. He had had a couple of big hits in the games I had been to this year, too. Payton had been another good pickup. The Sox had traded Dave Roberts to San Diego for Payton and Ramon Vazquez. As much as I loved Roberts, he would have only been a backup outfielder here, and it made sense to trade him to a place where he could play every day, in exchange for another backup outfielder who actually hits better, plus an infielder. It was important to have a capable outfield backup - one who could probably be a starter on any other team - because Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon were all injury-prone, and our fourth outfielder was sure to get a lot of playing time. In the seventh, we got to see another new acquisition, Matt Mantei. He was a hard-throwing, injury-prone former closer, just like Scott Williamson had been the year before. If he stayed healthy, he'd be a big boost to the bullpen.

The weather was really nice this afternoon. It was 66 at game-time, and with the sun in the bleachers, it felt nice and warm. I finally got to display one of my new World Champions T-shirts without having to bury it under a bunch of other layers. I even got my first tan of the season started! But the best part was that the Red Sox won a nice, clean game. The Yankees lost to Baltimore, and the new standings section of the scoreboard showed New York was now tied with Tampa Bay for last place. It was certainly a new world order, and I loved it!

Tuesday, April 19, Fenway Park, Section 41

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 2

Fenway Park The next day Curt Schilling picked up his first win of the year, in the Patriot's Day matinee. I was back on Tuesday night for a game against the Blue Jays. This was the first of four games in the Sox Pax we had purchased at the Christmas at Fenway event last December. It was so hard to get tickets that day, that we took whatever we could. We wound up piggy-backed, one behind the other, starting 41 rows back. I was only seven rows in front of the Dunkin' Dugout, the section of the back row under the Dunkin' Donuts sign where underprivileged kids get to watch games every night. But the view is good and unobstructed, and I actually prefer this seat to my Tenth Man Plan seat in the puddle in the fifth row.

The Sox had won five in a row going into tonight, and had moved into a first place tie with the Baltimore Orioles. Tonight Bronson Arroyo was going against Toronto's ace Roy Halladay. Manny Ramirez launched a towering homer over the Green Monster in the first inning, giving the Sox a 1-0 lead. From the replay they showed in the park, we saw it bounce off the back of the parking garage across the street. Watching the highlights at home later, I saw that it actually went over the light tower! I had to think back to the time last year that I sat on the Monster and looked up at the lights, to comprehend how high it had gone. Arroyo pitched really well, but Corey Koskie's homer leading off the sixth tied the game. In the seventh, however, it was Big Papi to the rescue. David Ortiz followed Manny's walk with a two-run homer for a 3-1 lead.

It was surprising when the Red Sox took the field for the top of the eighth that Jay Payton replaced Manny in left field. It was a little early to be sending in defensive replacements. It wasn't a large lead, and Manny was one of the few guys in the lineup who was doing well against Halladay, who was still in the game. Had Terry Francona finally flipped his lid? Predictably, Alan Embree gave up a two-run homer to Vernon Wells, tying the game. Manny's spot in the order came up with two men on in the bottom of the inning, but Payton flied out to end it. Then Keith Foulke coughed up a run in the ninth, and just like that, they had lost. When I got home, I heard that Manny had complained of "tightness in his quad" and that's why he had been taken out of the game. So it was a case of Manny Being Manny, not Tito lapsing into a Fran-coma.

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