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2007: Diary of a Season

Sunday, August 19 - Fenway Park, Section 43

Angels 3, Red Sox 1

I was back on Sunday, and there were a couple of roster changes. Doug Mirabelli had injured himself running the bases in the first game of the doubleheader on Friday, so Jason Varitek had caught eight innings in the first game plus all nine in the second game. He caught again on Saturday because Josh Beckett was pitching. But on Sunday, he finally got to rest. Kevin Cash, who had had some major league experience with the Blue Jays and Devil Rays, was called up from Pawtucket when Mirabelli was placed on the D.L. The other move was to call up Bobby Kielty, whom the Sox had signed a few weeks earlier after he had been released by the Oakland A's, now that Wily Mo Pena had been traded away. Kielty was a switch hitter, but did much better from the right side, so he got the nod against lefty Joe Saunders today. Julian Tavarez was on the mound.

We arrived early and watched the players come in to the players' parking lot. They were dressed up and carrying suitcases, because they'd be heading on the road after the game. When the gates opened, we went right in. Neither team chose to take batting practice, but the Red Sox pitchers were long-tossing in the outfield. As it got closer to gametime, we saw Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Julio Lugo go over and greet old friend Orlando Cabrera. Tavarez opened the game by giving up a single, a walk, and another single, putting a run on the board for the Angels before there was even an out. Finally he got a fly ball to center that moved the runner on second to third, and then a ground ball to short. They got one out, but were unable to turn the double play, and a second run scored. The next batter was Casey Kotchman, and he hit a long drive to right that was bound for the bullpen. Kielty, in his first game for the Sox, went back to the short right field wall, leaped, reached over the wall, and robbed Kotchman of the home run. He smacked his body hard against the top edge of the wall, and I was afraid he'd hurt himself in his first game, but he was OK and stayed in the game.

Youkilis at the plate Tavarez settled down after that, and made it through the sixth without allowing another hit. The only other baserunners he allowed were a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the third. The benches cleared when Cabrera took exception to being plunked, but nothing happened, as they all ended up just standing around for awhile. He recorded a lot of ground ball outs, and was helped by a nice defensive play by Mike Lowell at third. He even made a good play of his own, fielding a tough comebacker to the mound. Unfortunately, on the offensive side, there was no help from his teammates. Kielty continued his good first impression, with singles in his first two at-bats. David Ortiz had two hits, and Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, and Julio Lugo each had one (although Lugo was quickly picked off). But all the Red Sox hits were singles, and they couldn't put them together until the eighth, when they finally broke through for a run. Kyle Snyder gave up a run in the seventh, and Eric Gagne made it through the ninth, but it ended up as another frustrating, low-scoring loss that really should have been a win.

Monday, August 20 - Hadlock Field, Portland

Mets 6, Sea Dogs 2

The Portland Sea Dogs While the Red Sox headed to Tampa Bay, I took the day off from work and drove to Portland, Maine, for my annual look at the Double A Sea Dogs. Lefty Tommy Hottovy was on the mound. He was the same pitcher I had seen in my last Sea Dogs game the previous September, but he didn't fare as well this time out. He gave up three runs, including five straight singles, in five innings of work. Barry Hertzler gave up three more runs in his two innings of work, and then Hunter Jones and Mike James finished it up with a scoreless inning apiece. But just like their major league counterparts, the offense had trouble getting anything going. Catcher Sal Paniagua homered. Right fielder Cory Keylor had a double, and second baseman Zach Borowiak knocked in a run with his double, but that was it for offensive power.

I had brought my Walkman so I could listen to the Red Sox game, which was going on at the same time. It was a little confusing watching one game and listening to another, especially when the Sea Dogs were at the plate at the same time that the Red Sox were in the field. (Hearing "Strike three" over the headphones would be a good thing and I'd want to clap, but on the field in front of me there would be a ground ball out that didn't even advance the runners.) I did manage to keep it all straight, including scoring the Sea Dogs game. The Red Sox ended up beating the Devil Rays 6-0. During the game a rat had found its way into the Tropicana Field broadcast booth, and the announcers spent a lot of time talking about that. But from what I could tell, Kevin Cash had done a good job of handling the knuckleball in his first game behind the plate while Tim Wakefield was pitching. So while the Sea Dogs didn't do much to inspire, I was encouraged by the Red Sox' performance.

Thursday, August 30 - McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

PawSox 3, Bisons 2

Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury was a blur on the basepaths all night.
The Red Sox ended up taking two of three from the Devil Rays, then swept a four-game series in Chicago, outscoring the White Sox 46-7 in the process. As they moved on to New York, I realized I hadn't been to a PawSox game all summer, and they were almost done for the year. I got a seat for a Thursday night game, in the second row behind third base, right over the PawSox dugout. The Triple A season was over after the weekend, and then several of the players would be called up to Boston for the rest of the year. As usual, most of the team was familiar to me from either cameos with the big league team or spring training games. Shortstop Royce Clayton was a veteran major leaguer. Third baseman Jed Lowrie was one of the Sox' top infield prospects. First baseman Chris Carter had joined the team as the player to be named later in the Wily Mo Pena trade. Centerfielder Brandon Moss and DH Jeff Bailey had both played briefly in Boston earlier in the year. Right fielder Bobby Scales, catcher Dusty Brown, and second baseman Joe McEwing seemed to be in every spring training game I had been to. But the main attraction was left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who had impressed with his speed, defense, and spark during his brief call-up. On the mound was Devern Hansack, whom I had seen pitch a rain-shortened (and therefore unofficial)
no-hit game at Fenway at the end of last year.

Hansack got through the first with some defensive help from Carter, who ranged deep into foul territory to make a nice catch of a popup, and then it was time for Ellsbury to begin his display. He singled to lead off the first, which extended his hitting streak to 25 games. Clayton hit a comebacker to the mound, but that moved Ellsbury up to second. Lowrie's single sent him to third, and Carter's ground ball brought him home. Another good play - Scales reaching into the stands in foul territory to make a catch - helped Hansack in the third, and even though the Buffalo Bisons had a baserunner in every inning, he kept them off the board through five. Ellsbury came up with one out in the fifth, and hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. Mindful of Ellsbury's speed, the pitcher rushed the throw to first and threw it wildly. By the time the first baseman tracked down the throw, Ellsbury had rounded first and was on his way to second. The throw to second was also off-mark and rolled into left field. Ellsbury wound up on third - and all from a little grounder back to the mound! That must have rattled the pitcher, because he ended up throwing a wild pitch, on which Ellsbury scored, and walking Clayton on four pitches. Lowrie lined the first pitch of his at-bat for a double, and Clayton came home with the third PawSox run.

Hansack gave up solo homers in the sixth and seventh, but the PawSox hung on to the 3-2 lead. Bryan Corey pitched a scoreless eighth, and Travis Hughes came on for the ninth. The first batter singled and was bunted over to second with the first out of the inning. The next batter hit a fly ball into the gap in left-center. A double? A tie game? Not if Ellsbury had anything to say about it! He tracked it down and made a leaping catch, which would have been impressive in its own right, but then he fired back to second, where they doubled off the runner to end the game. Several of the PawSox would be called up to Boston in the coming days, but it was clear that Ellsbury wasn't going to be returning to Triple A.

Monday, September 3 - Fenway Park, Section 39

Red Sox 13, Blue Jays 10

Fenway Park After finishing their road trip by getting swept in New York, the Red Sox came home and took two of three from the Orioles, including Clay Buchholz's no-hitter, to get their division lead back to six games. Our seats were in the upper bleachers, which I don't mind at all, since the seats all face the right direction, and there are no poles to block the view. Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound for the Sox, and he started off by allowing a run on back-to-back doubles in the first. But in the home half, Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, just as he had done in Pawtucket and in his previous stints in Boston. Fellow rookie Dustin Pedroia, whom I was growing to love more and more as the season went on, followed with a single of his own. Big Papi struck out, but Mike Lowell, batting cleanup with Manny Ramirez getting the night off, launched a homer over the Monster. That extended his hitting streak to 16 games, and gave the Sox a 3-1 lead.

Dice-K settled down after that. He had a 1-2-3 inning in the second, and allowed only a single baserunner in each of the third, fourth, and fifth. Meanwhile, the Sox continued to add to their lead. Ellsbury and Pedroia both singled again in the third, and both came around to score later in the inning on sacrifice flies. Coco Crisp flied out to open the fourth, but then Eric Hinske doubled and Julio Lugo singled, and the kids at the top of the order did their thing again. This time Ellsbury walked to load the bases, and Pedroia's third hit of the game drove in two more runs. Papi singled, and an error by the third baseman allowed a run to score. J.D. Drew's sac fly drove in the fifth run of the inning and gave the Sox a nice 10-1 lead. My brother and I agreed that this is just the sort of game - positive and stress-free - that we like to attend.

And then the sixth inning happened. The Blue Jays sent twelve men to the plate in the inning. A walk and four straight hits, including Troy Glaus's three-run homer, scored four runs before the Sox even recorded an out. Another single knocked Dice-K from the game, and brought Javier Lopez in. He gave up a hit, a walk, and a double (and three more runs), before Manny Delcarmen came in. A groundout knocked in the eighth run of the inning for the Blue Jays, and the Sox only got out of it when Ellsbury made a diving catch in left. The comfortable 10-1 lead had suddenly turned into a stomach-churning 10-9. This was not at all the kind of game we had wanted to see!

Luckily the Sox got a little insurance in the bottom of the sixth. They scored runs on Jason Varitek's hit, Coco's squeeze bunt, and a balk. Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima conspired to give up another run in the seventh, and Mike Timlin got them through the eighth. That left the score 13-10, which meant that this game that had once looked like it would be a cushy blowout was now a save opportunity. Jonathan Papelbon was called on for the ninth, and happily he was his usual self. He struck out Aaron Hill and Greg Zaun, then got pinch-hitter Russ Adams to pop up to third to end it. And once the "W" was safely in the books, I decided that this kind of game - a win, no matter what they've gone through to get there - is exactly what I did want to see after all!

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