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2007: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 7, A's 3
The Sox got swept in Toronto and took two of three in Tampa before returning home to face the A's. This was the final game of the four-game package I had in these seats. For the third time in the four games, it was Curt Schilling on the mound. In the other two games, Curt had pitched well but wound up not getting the win. And this time he gave up a solo homer to Daric Barton in the first, putting the Sox down 1-0 before they even came to the plate. Luckily it didn't take long for the Sox to tie it up. This was Manny Ramirez's first game back after missing almost a month with an oblique strain. With only a week left in the season, the idea was to get him as many at-bats as possible, so he was batting second after Dustin Pedroia tonight. I was worried he wouldn't have enough time to get ready for the playoffs, but he didn't show any signs of rust when he singled in the first. Big Papi followed with a walk, and Mike Lowell's double drove home the tying run.
Schilling settled down after that, including striking out the side in the fourth, but the Red Sox weren't able to get much else going against Chad Gaudin. Finally, in the fifth, Manny led off with a walk. Papi followed with another walk. Then Lowell walked, and when J.D. Drew took ball four, it forced in the go-ahead run. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a sac fly, and the Sox were up 3-1. Schilling was done after six, and Manny Delcarmen pitched a scoreless seventh. The Sox tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-1 lead. Eric Gagne came on for the eighth, and I think it's safe to say no one in the stands was inspired with any kind of confidence. He was facing the top of the order, and Shannon Stewart led off with a single. "Pap-el-bon, Pap-el-bon!" we all yelled, knowing of course that our closer wouldn't be asked to pitch two innings. After Jonathan Papelbon's shoulder injury last September, the team had been very careful about limiting his innings this year. That was what the Gagne trade was supposed to accomplish, but it wasn't exactly working out that way. Gagne managed to get two outs (on scary fly balls) but then he walked Jack Cust. That brought Terry Francona out of the dugout, and Papelbon in from the 'pen. On his first pitch, Mark Ellis popped up to short, and the Sox were out of the inning.
Bobby Kielty had come in for Manny earlier in the game, and his sac fly in the eighth got another run in for the Red Sox. That was followed by Big Papi's two-run homer, and it gave the Sox a 7-1 lead. With the game no longer close and the playoffs a week away, Francona brought Bryan Corey in for the ninth. The guys sitting next to were horrified that Papelbon was out of the game after only one pitch. I tried to argue that they needed to keep him fresh, and that Corey had been pitching well, and it would all be OK. Corey walked the first batter, and the guy next to me groaned. "No, it's OK," I told him. "They're just setting up the double play." He laughed, having heard me rationalize every disappointment in the past three games in those seats. "You can put a positive spin on anything," he said. "Are you in marketing?" "No," I answered, "I'm not in marketing. But I am in denial!" Even I started to panic when a single and a double drove in a run, and a sac fly drove in another. But that was followed by a line drive to Pedroia, who flipped to second base to double off the runner and end the game with the double play I had been calling for.
Twins 5, Red Sox 4
There was a ceremony before the game to honor Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky on his 88th birthday. Josh Beckett, in his final start before the playoffs, got into some trouble in the first, when he gave up a single and a run-scoring triple to the first two batters of the game. But he worked his way out of it with some defensive help. When Torii Hunter grounded to short, Julio Lugo threw home to get the runner out at the plate. Then Beckett and Jason Varitek teamed up to get an inning-ending strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play. The Sox got two runs in the bottom of the inning, on a double by David Ortiz and a single by J.D. Drew. But Beckett wasn't sharp, and he allowed the tying run in the second, and single runs in each of the third, fifth, and sixth. On the out-of-town scoreboard, we saw the Devil Rays take a 1-0 lead over the Yankees in the fourth, so if the Sox could pull this one out, they could clinch.
The Red Sox got a little closer in the fifth, when Big Papi came to the plate. He already had two hits, and he drove this one deep to right, over the visitors' bullpen, and right into the section where I was sitting, about three rows in front of me. The kid next to me started jumping up and down, so my friend and I waved too. My parents called to say they had seen us on TV, although when I watched the replay later, it was from a distance, so I was just a blur with a red hat. Papi had another single and a walk later in the game, making him perfect at the plate that night. At least he was one player who was heating up at the right time!
Jason Varitek homered in the eighth to make it 5-4, Twins. In the ninth, Brandon Moss, the September call-up who had pinch-run for Manny Ramirez earlier in the game, led off with a double. That was followed by two walks to load the bases with two outs. Kevin Youkilis came in to pinch-hit for Bobby Kielty, but he struck out to end it. The Yankees went on to beat the Devil Rays, so the magic number stayed at two.
Division Series Game 1 - Red Sox 4, Angels 0
I didn't get to see the Red Sox clinch on Thursday, and I had plans to wait in the day-of-game ticket line on Saturday if they hadn't clinched yet, but Friday night I was watching on TV. The Sox cruised to a 5-2 win over the Twins, which reduced their magic number to one. A couple thousand fans waited around at Fenway Park after the close of the game to see the outcome of the Yankees-Orioles matchup. If the Yankees lost, we'd be the Eastern Division Champions for the first time since 1995, but New York led 9-6 going into the bottom of the ninth. As the Red Sox fans watched on the Jumbo-Tron and the players looked on in the clubhouse, the Orioles scored three runs off Mariano Rivera to tie the game and send it to extra innings. Finally, in the tenth, a Melvin Mora bases-loaded bunt single brought home the winning run, and the Red Sox were the Eastern Division Champs! The celebration started in the clubhouse, but the players came back out to the field to celebrate with the fans. Since the Yankees game ended an hour after the Red Sox game, the players had changed out of their uniforms. A couple had even gone home, and returned for the celebration. Beer and champagne flowed everywhere. Jonathan Papelbon protected himself with an empty Bud Light box over his head with eye holes cut out, as he continued to douse his teammates. Kevin Youkilis showed off his dance moves. Alex Cora invaded the sound booth and started spinning the tunes. The lasting memory from the last time the Sox won the division was seeing Mo Vaughn ride a police horse, and the enduring image of this season's clincher was Papelbon, clad in Spandex undershorts, dancing the jig to "Shipping Up to Boston," the Dropkick Murphys song he enters each game to.
The Red Sox ended up finishing the season tied with the Cleveland Indians for the best record in baseball, but because the Sox had gone 5-2 against the Tribe, Boston was the top seed and gained home field advantage throughout the playoffs. My Tenth Man Plan includes tickets to one Division Series game, but in past years I've always had tickets to Game 4 when the series ended up lasting only three games. This time my ticket was for Game 1, so I'd definitely get to go, and I'd be seeing Josh Beckett take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The game was at 6:37, but I took the day off from work and went in to Fenway Park early. When I got there around 3:00, I passed the day-of-game ticket line and thought it didn't look too bad. But I didn't need to worry about that today; I had my ticket. I watched the players drive in to the player's parking lot, then went in as soon as the gates opened and watched batting practice.
Our seats were not in our normal Tenth Man Plan location; we were out in the right field grandstand, but it wasn't too bad, because with everyone concentrating on the game, there weren't a lot of people going up and down the aisles and blocking our view. (There was one guy in our section who was wearing a Papelbon jersey and a Bud Light box over his head, and he got applause every time he stood up between innings.) After the lineups were announced and the flag was draped over the Green Monster for the National Anthem, the Standells sang "Dirty Water" on a portable stage in centerfield, and Jerry Remy threw out the first pitch. For all the details and additional pictures of the dominating Red Sox victory, see my ALDS Game 1 recap.
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