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2007: Diary of a Season

Sunday, July 22 - Fenway Park, Section 41

Red Sox 8, White Sox 5

The Red Sox lost again on Thursday, and then Friday night they finally had the dramatic, galvanizing win that I had been hoping for. It started with a J.D. Drew homer off the top of the Green Monster in the first inning - which was ruled a double by the umps, costing the Sox two precious runs - and they soon found themselves trailing 3-1. Replays clearly showed the ball bouncing off the top face of the Wall, and Terry Francona got himself tossed arguing to no avail. After that, the team rallied, and ended up routing the White Sox 10-3. Even Julio Lugo got in on the fun with a grand slam. They won in another blowout the next day, and by the time I arrived for Sunday's game, I was in a much better mood.

The fun started before the game, when we booed Tim McClelland, the umpire who had ruled on Drew's homer-that-wasn't-a-homer-even-though-it-really-was-a-homer, when he was introduced. Doug Mirabelli and Tim Wakefield Manny Ramirez launched a three-run home run in the bottom of the first. That came after two walks, and it was nice to see them finally taking advantage of baserunners instead of stranding them all. Tim Wakefield worked quickly through the White Sox lineup. A couple of hits in the fifth finally produced a run for Chicago, but the Red Sox were able to get that run - and more - right back. Mike Lowell hit a three-run homer, which again followed two walks, in the fifth. The Red Sox got a sac fly from Kevin Youkilis and another RBI hit from Manny in the sixth, to drive in two more runs.

The Red Sox played good defense again, too, which is always fun to watch. With runners at the corners and two outs, Youk made a leaping catch of a line drive to first base to end the third inning. In the sixth, Dustin Pedroia ranged a long way at second, then spun and threw to first in time for the out. The funny thing is that both good plays robbed the same batter, Alex Cintron, of hits. Cintron did finally reach base in his next at-bat, in the seventh, when the White Sox batted around and scored four runs to knock Wake from the game. Manny Delcarmen couldn't put out the fire, so it took Hideki Okajima to come in and get a strikeout to end the inning. Oki stayed in and breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon finished it up in the ninth.

Tuesday, July 31 - Fenway Park, Section 35

Orioles 5, Red Sox 3

The Green Monster The Red Sox continued their success into their next road trip. They won three of four in Cleveland, including Jon Lester's emotional return from cancer treatments, and then won two of three in Tampa Bay. My next game was on the night of the trading deadline. The big announcement of the day was that the Red Sox had traded Kason Gabbard and David Murphy to the Texas Rangers for closer Eric Gagne. It sounded a little strange, because the bullpen was the one of the strengths of the team and the only area that didn't seem to be in need of an upgrade. But the idea was that he could get some end-of-game innings on nights when Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon were unavailable, thus keeping them fresh for the end of the season and beyond. One area that wasn't addressed was the bench. White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye would have been a good fit, given how all three regular outfielders - J.D. Drew, Coco Crisp, and Manny Ramirez - were injury-prone, and that there was really no one on the bench who could deliver a pinch-hit when needed. The trade sounded promising, because the White Sox would have taken Wily Mo Pena as part of the deal, but when they also wanted either Manny Delcarmen or pitching prospect Justin Masterson, the Red Sox withdrew. They weren't about to give up one of their top prospects for a guy who'd be a free agent in a couple of months, and I think they decided they could find a backup outfielder cheaper off waivers in the coming weeks.

Brian Roberts jumped on Josh Beckett's first pitch and sent it off the top of the low right field fence for a home run. It seemed to be in a spot where it might have been catchable, but Wily Mo Pena was nowhere near it. Someone behind me yelled out, "Jermaine Dye would've had it!" Beckett got through the inning otherwise unscathed, and Julio Lugo led off with a looping hit to shallow center. Unfortunately, Corey Patterson ran in and made a diving catch. The guy behind me yelled again, "Hey Patterson, wanna come play right field for us?" It got worse in the third. The Orioles scored three more runs, with the big blow coming from our old friend Kevin Millar. The Sox gave us some hope in the third, when David Ortiz hit a two-run homer. In the fourth, there was more reason to cheer, when Wily Mo made a great diving catch, complete with a roll at the end. Everyone in right field and those of us in center gave him a standing ovation.

Hideki Okajima looks on from the bullpen
Hideki Okajima watches in anticipation from the bullpen, as the fans rise to their feet. If the Sox can tie it up, he'll be in to pitch the tenth.
After the Orioles scored another run in the sixth, Big Papi hit his second home run of the game in the eighth. That pulled the Sox a little closer, but they still trailed 5-3. In the ninth, Crisp singled with one out. It was only the fourth Red Sox hit of the night, and the first by someone other than Papi. Eric Hinske, who had pinch-hit for Pena in the seventh, walked. That brought it back to the top of the order. There were enough baserunners on; they just needed to be able to get it to Papi. Julio Lugo hit into a fielder's choice. There were still two guys on base, but now there were two outs. It was up to Dustin Pedroia. All he had to do was keep the inning going, but alas, he grounded it back to the pitcher for the final out. So much for that game!

Wednesday, August 15 - Fenway Park, Section 43

Devil Rays 6, Red Sox 5

The Red Sox finished up the Orioles series with two more wins, then won two of three in Seattle and one of three in Anaheim. In Baltimore, they dropped two more games, both the result of Eric Gagne's struggles. Returning to Fenway, they won the first two games against the Devil Rays, and I was back on Wednesday as they went for the sweep. It was a weekday afternoon game, which I hate to start with, because I miss the whole thing while I'm at work. (I do tape them, and try to follow along online, but that's not the same as watching it live.) And I hate them even more if I have to go to one, because of how inconvenient it is to get in there and find a parking space - even at a T station - on a weekday afternoon. But we had tickets for this Wednesday afternoon matinee, so I took a vacation day and left my house early. I was there before the gates opened, so I went around to the players' parking lot and watched them drive in. In the two weeks since my last game, the Red Sox' lead had shrunk to five games. (The logic in me knew it was OK, that that's why the huge lead was so important early on, because it would give them some breathing room in case they slowed down a bit later. But since when has logic had anything to do with being a Red Sox fan?) I was not at all comfortable with a five-game lead, but I figured I'd feel better if they could get it back to six today. Toward that end, it was fortunate that they were sending Daisuke Matsuzaka up against Andy Sonnanstine, who had a 1-8 record so far this year.

Tek hits a home run It did not start well. Dice-K gave up a run in the first, which wouldn't have been a big deal, except that he followed it with four more runs in the third and another in the sixth. Meanwhile, Sonnanstine was completely shutting down the Red Sox lineup. They were down 6-0, and they had only had two hits and a walk in that whole time. It was pathetic! They couldn't afford to drop this game, and I was angry at Dice-K for making me waste a vacation day this way.

Finally, in the seventh inning, the Red Sox found a way to break through. Mike Lowell singled, and Jason Varitek hit a home run. Coco Crisp walked, and that finally got Sonnanstine out of the game. Once the Devil Rays' relievers got involved, there was actually a chance for a comeback. Julio Lugo doubled, and the score was now 6-3. In the eighth, David Ortiz walked and Manny Ramirez doubled him in, making it 6-4. Maybe Dice-K didn't owe me a vacation day after all! In the ninth, Coco beat out an infield hit, and Lugo had a good eleven-pitch at-bat, resulting in his second double of the day, and a 6-5 score. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis both struck out, but that brought Big Papi to the plate with a chance to make it all OK again. The count went to 3-2 as we all held our breath... ball four. That brought up Manny, but he struck out, and the game was over. Very, very pathetic!

Friday, August 17 - Fenway Park, Section 41

Red Sox 8, Angels 4

Two days later, it was time for another afternoon game, and another vacation day off from work. This was a makeup of a game from a snowing, sleeting day in April, but the weather this afternoon was perfect for baseball, sunny and 77 degrees. Because it was a doubleheader without a day off afterward, the Sox had to call up a pitcher. That meant the major league debut of Clay Buchholz, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, for the afternoon game. He had started the year in Double A, and had just been promoted to Pawtucket the previous month. Now here he was, three days after his twenty-third birthday, making his major league debut, but knowing that he'd be sent right down again after the game. He started off by walking Chone Figgins, and then an error by J.D. Drew in right field helped prolong the inning so that a groundout knocked in a run for the Angels. (It was ironic that Drew made an error, because it had just been announced that day that the Sox had traded Wily Mo Pena to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. I thought I wouldn't have to watch that kind of thing anymore!)

Mike Timlin watches over the bullpen
"Admiral" Mike Timlin and his parrot watch over the bullpen.
The offense gave Buchholz some breathing room when they sent ten men to the plate in the bottom of the first and scored six runs. The inning was highlighted by David Ortiz's two-run homer, but also featured a triple by Drew and doubles by Dustin Pedroia, Doug Mirabelli, and Alex Cora. (Mirabelli appeared to be limping when he crossed the plate later in the inning, and he was replaced in the top of the second by Jason Varitek, who went on to catch the remaining 17 innings in the day's doubleheader.) They tacked on a couple more runs on Vladimir Guerrero's fourth-inning error and birthday boy Dustin Pedroia's eighth-inning homer.

Our seats were in the first row right in front of the Red Sox bullpen, which was kind of cool. We got a good look at each guy as he warmed up, and saw a glimpse of the bullpen dynamics. The relievers had adopted a "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme for the season, although they were pretty secretive with the media about the details, like each player's pirate nickname. We did notice a stuffed parrot keeping an eye on things from his perch on the bullpen wall. We also noticed that "rookie" Hideki Okajima was repeatedly sent to the cooler to fetch water bottles for any of his teammates who wanted them.

Buchholz ran into a little trouble in the fifth, when he gave up two runs on four straight singles, but he was helped out when Kevin Youkilis made a nice unassisted double play on a line drive to first to end the inning. After Buchholz's strong six innings, Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon finished it up.

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