Saturday, May 3, 2008

Red Sox Snag First Place From Tampa Bay

They were the wettest of times, they were the coldest of times. My daughter and I arrived at Fenway Park at 6:20 and were greeted with clouds, cold, and drizzle. The field was empty and covered by the tarp. Yellow-clad security guards stood sentry to thwart the likelihood of 30,000 people spontaneously starting the world's biggest game of "slip-and-slide" (which we were very tempted to initiate). We wandered around, took in all the Fenway sights, sounds and smells. We said "hi" to Jerry Remy and Tom Carron out by RemDawgs, and we looked for Luis Tiante who must have been indoors keeping warm. And we waited. And the rain drifted down, and we waited. Fans filled the concourse like the tide slowly rising up the beach. And we waited.

The Red Sox front office did NOT want to give up on the opportunity to play last night. We were occasionally informed that the game was delayed due to "inclement weather" (duh!) and that the Red Sox were "hopeful" that they'd be able to get the game in. And we waited. At 7:30 the Red Sox put the Yankees-Mariners game on the big screen. That was fun, except for the fact that the Mariners spent the first three innings proving they are more inept than the injury-depleted Yankees. At 8:05, the Red Sox thankfully switched the big screen to the Celtics game and we actually got to watch the entire first half of the game, while we...waited.

At 9:00 just as everyone was counting down to their decision to flee, the announcement came out that the game would start at 9:30! A cheer went up, and a swarm of worker bees gave an impressive demonstration in the art of clearing a 100 foot soaking wet square of tarp off of a baseball field. Now, we were all glad to see some baseball, but a 9:30 start is pretty extreme. If we had been playing the Yankees, the game could have easily gone until 2:30 in the morning. But, we were not playing the Yankees, we were playing the Light Beams from Florida.
We did, however, have to leave at 11:45 after the 6th inning, to make sure we made our subway connections. But, the 6 innings we saw were fun.

Clay Buchholz looked good, but a little stiff from the cold and late start. He twice allowed the first two batters to get on base, but seemed to bear down and pitch brilliantly to get out of the trouble. Brandon Moss, who had a great game, got Clay out of his jam in the second inning. With two outs, Evan Longoria tried to score from second base on a hard single to Moss in right field. Longoria had turned the corner around third as Moss was setting up for the throw - it looked like he was going to make it, until Moss launched a rocket to home, easily getting there a step ahead of the runner. Jason Varitek fielded the throw cleanly on one hop and applied the tag.

There was more excitement at home plate in the fifth inning. Jason Bartlett had already scored from third on a wild pitch, and the speedy Carl Crawford now stood on third base with one out. The Rays thought they had the momentum, and apparently thought Crawford had "Ellsbury speed". Crawford did not have Ellsbury speed (or at least Ellsbury smarts). Jonny Gomes hit a ground ball to Mike Lowell at third base, who was playing a step behind the bag. Lowell fielded it cleanly and looked Crawford back to the bag. Lowell timed it perfectly. As soon as Crawford took his step back towards third, Lowell fired a strike to first, and to everyone's surprise Crawford took off for home. Kevin Youkilis secured the out at first, stepped off the bag and fired home, Varitek applied the tag, inning over!

The exciting news for Sox fans is that the offense finally broke out. They almost got a big inning going in the third. Julio Lugo and Dustin Pedroia both doubled accounting for one run, but no one else was able to chip in. But, in the fourth inning, something finally clicked and the Sox managed to score 5 runs with two outs! Brandon Moss (remember I said he had a good game?) started the fireworks by crushing a home run to center field bouncing off the camera booth. That got the crowd fired up, and the bats too.

Jason Varitek singled and Lugo walked to set the table for Jacoby Ellsbury, who took advantage and laced a single to center scoring Varitek and sending Lugo to third. Then, Jacoby (who DOES have Ellsbury speed) was off with the pitch and stole second base as Pedroia swung at and missed strike two. Dustin hung in there and laced a single to left fielder Carl Crawford. Ellsbury was around third base as Crawford was scooping the ball. He dutifully fired to home in a futile attempt to gun down Ellsbury, who easily scored standing up. In fact, I think the throw crossed through the wake left behind Ellsbury and the wake knocked the ball off course. With Pedroia on second base, and still two outs, Big Papi got into the action guiding a single through the "shift" and into right center field, scoring Dustin. The Sox' offense was back! The surprise was that the coldest bat of the night was Manny Ramirez'. Manny struck out to end the inning, and went 0 for 5 with 3 K's on the night.

Clay Buchholz came out of the game in firm possession of a 6-1 lead with one out in the 6th. Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen stumbled through the remainder of the 6th and 7th, giving up 2 runs, but hanging on to the lead. That set things up for the Red Sox 1-2 punch of Okajima and Papelbon who sent down the Rays' batters 1-2-3 in the eighth (Okajima) and the ninth (Papelbon).

So, the Sox steal first place back from Tampa Bay (I can't believe I just wrote that - tip your hat to the Rays!), and all is well in Boston again (unless you are a Celtics fan and have chewed all of your fingernails to the bone by now).

Josh Beckett matches up against Scott Shields today and will try to keep the Rays from jumping back into first. Shields pitched a fantastic game against the Sox last week, and if he can repeat that, we are in for quite a pitcher's duel. I am still waiting for Manny to launch home run number 497, and can't imagine we'll have to wait much longer for that.

On the injury front, expect JD Drew to be available tonight, and Ellsbury is already back and running fine. Bartolo Colon has gone to Florida to begin an extended spring training. He'll join the Sox in Detroit this week and be examined by the medical staff. If all is well, he'll be inserted into the Pawtucket rotation to increase his pitch count in preparation for a call-up later possibly later this month. Curt Schilling, meanwhile, is on the verge of starting to throw for the first time since shutting it down early this spring. Keep those pitchers coming!


Matt said...

J.D. is starting to look like the always injured player he was before he joined the Sox.
The nice thing about living on the West Coast is being able to watch the entire game after the rain delay and still getting a good night's sleep. How are you East Coasters doing this morning?

Rooster said...

Notice the late post! That was way too late on our side of the continent.

Good things about JD (and Ellsbury's) injuries is they seem like tweaks, and rather than try to keep playing and completely blow them out, they are taking 2-3 days off to get back out there solid. Hopefuly, this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Lol @ Light beams from Florida & you can't believe you just typed that (re TB/1st place). Glad you were able to hang in there with the rain delay (and passed the time watching the Celtics :)

Not Lol @ the fact that Manny went 0 for 5 on Friday night. When is he ever going to reach 500?!