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2005: Diary of a Season

Wednesday, April 27, Fenway Park

Rained out After my last game, the Red Sox went to Baltimore and swept a two-game series, winning 8-0 and 1-0 in great starts by David Wells and Matt Clement. (After the way the Red Sox had struggled against the Orioles last season, I wondered if no one had told the new guys we weren't supposed to know how to beat them!) Then it was on to Tampa Bay, where they dropped two of three, then back home to face the Orioles again. Wells, who had finally had two really good starts in a row and seemed like maybe he wouldn't end up being the bum I had originally thought he was, sprained his foot in the first game and got knocked out early as the Red Sox lost. The next day it was announced he was going on the D.L. That night, Keith Foulke blew a lead in the eighth inning, and the Sox lost again. I had Wednesday's game, when they'd try to salvage one game of the series.

This was another game in my Tenth Man Plan. It was an afternoon game, so I had to take the day off from work. It was raining when I got to the park, and I didn't bother going to my seat in the bleachers. I waited under cover in the grandstand behind home plate. The game was supposed to start at 1:00, but at 12:30 they posted an announcement that it would start at 2:00. At 2:00, the estimate changed to 2:30. The steady rain coninued, but shortly after 2:00, the grounds crew came out and lined up next to the tarp, as if they were ready to take it off. But after a couple of minutes, they left the field, with the tarp still on. A couple of minutes later, we watched two of the clubhouse guys walk out to the bullpen and bring back a stack of towels and the Gatorade bucket. Even though the scoreboard still announced a 2:30 start, that's the sign that it's been called. Sure enough, a few minutes later they announced the game was rained out.

My friend knows someone who works in Stadium Operations, and he told her they were planning on making up the game on Memorial Day. That was the next time the Orioles came to town, and they had a game scheduled for that Monday night. It made sense to play the makeup on the holiday afternoon. And it would work well for my friend and me, because we'd be able to go to the makeup without having to take the day off or trade it in for a later game. On the way home, I checked my voice mail and had a message from my father. He said that during the rain delay it was announced on TV that Curt Schilling was going on the disabled list. We had just lost Wells the day before, and now Curt would be out, too? We were doomed! We all know the adage that pitching wins championships, and last October's success was incontrovertible proof. But here we were, exactly six months after that glorious night, with the pitching in shambles. So that's it? We got six beautiful months, and then turned back into a pumpkin? I wasn't ready to let go of 2004 yet, but I wasn't about to concede 2005, either. Wade Miller had signed with the Sox in the off-season and was progressing well in his shoulder rehab. He'd be ready soon, so there may yet be hope.

When I got home, I found out that the game would made up on June 2, a common off-day after the Memorial Day series. But it was a Thursday afternoon game, so my friend and I decided we'd just trade our stubs in for a different game later in the season. I went in to Fenway on my lunch break a couple of days later to trade them in, and was surprised to find out that the Red Sox didn't let people trade rained out tickets for other games any more. Almost everything was already sold out for the year. I found one game in September that we didn't have yet, but the seats were piggy-backed. I bought those anyway, so we could still go to the same number of games together, and when I got back to work I asked for June 2 off, so I could go to the makeup game, too.

Sunday, May 8, Fenway Park, Section 18

Mariners 6, Red Sox 4

Maybe we weren't doomed after all! The makeshift rotation was holding together pretty well. Bronson Arroyo had stepped up and pitched like an ace over his last few starts. Matt Clement seemed to have found the consistency he had lacked in previous years, which he credited to working with Jason Varitek. Tim Wakefield was his usual dependable self. John Halama had made one productive spot start, and Jeremi Gonzalez had been called up from Pawtucket while Wells and Schilling were both out. The Sox had a successful road trip, winning two of three in Texas and three of four in Detroit. They returned to Fenway for a weekend series with the Mariners and won again Friday night. Saturday's game was rained out. Sunday was Mother's Day, and it was in my Tenth Man Plan. The rainout was being made up at noon on Sunday, with the regular Sunday game moved from 2:00 to 5:00. Gonzalez pitched well in the first game - the Sox won their fifth in a row - and it went quickly enough that I was able to hear the end on the radio in the car before getting on the subway on my way in to the second game.

Fenway Park It was raining when I got there, and I didn't want to go sit in the "puddle seats," especially before the game even started. We waited in the standing room area behind Section 18 near home plate, and decided to watch the game from there. We'd be dry, and since the majority of our games were in the bleachers, it would be nice to see a game from a different perspective, even though it meant standing. Wade Miller was making his first start of the year. He had been a promising young pitcher for the Houston Astros a few years ago. He was a solid number two starter behind Roy Oswalt, and had been their Opening Day starter one year. But he had arm problems last year and shut down in June. Rather than having surgery, he opted for rest, and was signed by the Red Sox in the off-season when the Astros released him. They originally thought he wouldn't be back till the All-Star break, and hoped he could pitch for the stretch run and the playoffs. But it's good he was ahead of schedule, because the Red Sox really needed him in the rotation now. (And to think a couple of weeks ago, everyone was worrying about who should go to the 'pen when Miller returned. Arroyo and Wakefield were the likely candidates, but both were doing well in the rotation. But there's no such thing as too much pitching, so having six starters was a good problem to have, and these things have a way of working themselves out.)

The Mariners went down 1-2-3 in the first inning. Johnny Damon had a hit in the bottom half, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. Miller struck out the side in the second, and looked really dominant. In the third, Wiki Gonzalez led off with a double. After a groundout, Ichiro Suzuki singled, and Randy Winn's grounder plated the first run of the game. Adrian Beltre followed with a double, scoring Ichiro, before Miller got out of the inning. That inning was the only blemish, as he threw 91 pitches over five innings. It was an encouraging start that would bode well for the rest of the season. At the end of the third inning, we moved from the standing room area into a pair of seats in the back row of the grandstand that no one had arrived for yet. No one ever came, and we got to see the game from a great view much better than our normal spot in the bleachers.

Big Papi got the Sox on the board with a solo homer in the fourth, and tied the game with a double in the sixth. In the sixth, Terry Francona brought in John Halama. With Jeremi Gonzalez only going 5 2/3 in the first game of the doubleheader, Mike Myers, Matt Mantei, Mike Timlin, and Keith Foulke had all seen action. So when the lefty Halama had a runner on second and two outs with a couple of righties due up next, Francona brought in the only rested guy out there, 21-year-old Cla (pronounced "Clay") Meredith. He had been drafted less than a year ago in June of 2004, and started 2005 in Single A. Now after only twelve games in Double A and a mere five days in Triple A, here he was making his Major League debut. He obviously showed a lot of promise, based on his quick ascent, but was a tie game with a runner in scoring position the best way to welcome a guy with less than 60 innings of work in his entire pro career?

It wasn't.

He walked Winn on a full count and Beltre on four pitches, loading the bases. He threw strike one to Richie Sexson, but found his next pitch wrapped around Pesky's Pole for a grand slam. Welcome to the majors, Cla! Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn, and David Ortiz all doubled in the seventh to score two more runs, but it was too late. Meredith appeared in two more games (wearing number 40; he had worn Byung-Hyun Kim's old number, 51, in his debut) and was sent back to Pawtucket when Wells returned from the D.L. ten days later.

May 13-14, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown

Curt's bloody sock The Red Sox swept the A's in a three-game series, with two of the games won on walkoff home runs, by Kevin Millar and Jason Varitek. When the Sox went on a west coast road trip to Seattle and Oakland, I went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. We drove up on Friday, and went into the musuem that afternoon, because admission tickets purchased within two hours of closing can be used again the following day. In past visits, I had always been a little uninterested in the postseason exhibits after the 1910's, but this time we headed straight for the postseason section. There was a large display of memorabilia from the 2004 World Series, including bats used by Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, jerseys worn by David Ortiz and Derek Lowe, dirt from the pitcher's mound in St. Louis, and the piece de resistance, Curt Schilling's bloody sock from Game 2 of the World Series. My photos from the 2004 World Series exhibit can be seen on the
Hall of Fame page.

I hadn't been to the Hall of Fame since 2002, and it had undergone a lot of renovations since then, so there were a lot of new things I hadn't seen before. We walked through the Plaque Gallery on Friday afternoon, and almost had the place to ourselves. We came back Saturday to see the rest of the exhibits. I always find the historical exhibits fascinating, and another highlight was the section on Today's Game, with a locker for each team containing memorabilia from recent years. The Red Sox display had the bat Johnny Damon used when he had a single, a double, and a triple in the same inning in a 2003 game against the Marlins; the two bats used by Bill Mueller when he hit grand slams from both sides of the plate in Texas in 2003; Roger Clemens' hat and Bill Haselman's glove from Roger's second 20-K game in 1996; the bat Mike Greenwell used in a 1996 game in which he drove in all nine runs in an extra-inning 9-8 Red Sox win; Pedro Martinez's uniform jersey from the 1999 All-Star Game; and the spikes Derek Lowe wore for his no-hitter in 2002.

Hall of Fame Gallery After finishing up the museum, we went down the street to Doubleday Field and watched a couple of innings of a game betwen two regional high schools from northern Massachusetts. Later in the month, the Red Sox would be playing the Detroit Tigers in the exhibition Hall of Fame Game here, and I was looking at the outfield fences only 296 feet away and wondering if Manny and Papi were going to knock out any windows in the church and houses across the street. (Of course, when they did play the game, the regulars didn't stay in long. In fact, coaches Dale Sveum and Bill Haselman both got hits. Bullpen catcher Jason LaRocque and batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero also got to play, and even the front office's media coordinator Peter Chase got an at-bat.)

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