9/7/07: Devil Rays 4, Red Sox 5
This is going to be hard for us to blog about in any coherent way, because how do you reduce the ecstasy of a perfect Fenway Park experience to words on a screen? (Unless you are Beth, who channeled it perfectly.)
For once in our sweet, short lives, we made it to Fenway in time for batting practice, a fun ritual elevated by two sightings: 1) Manny's first live BP since the oblique strain, and 2) Save: J. Papelbon filming the latest Friendly's Scoop. Naturally, the latter drew us down close to the field* and we got to hear him rant about how Tito is a cheatin' manager who better watch his back (we admit to being paralyzed with fear for a moment before realizing he was talking about fantasy football).
Plus, we can now provide a tantalizing sneak peek of future Scoops: Paps inaudibly interviewed Manny Delcarmen and then audibly botched saying his own name three times in a row while taping the intro. So our new favorite saying is, "This is Jonathan Papa-blah-blah." Okay, it's not that handy as favorite sayings go, not as easy to drop into conversation as a Seinfeld reference, but love will find a way.
Jonathan Papelbon: oh, he's real, and he's spectacular.
II. Unsung Heroes
Jon Lester's first-inning peccadilloes definitely gave us chills. And nausea. You know, vague symptoms like Mike Lowell's.** Credit where it's due--once he got out of the inning, even though he continued to terrify us and rack up the pitch count like a pinball score, he didn't allow another run. But this is not a story about starting pitching and its desertion of the greater Boston area. This is not a story about shame.
This is the story of Julian Tavarez and his Moste Merrie Pirate Companie. When Lester departed in the 4th, a tourist standing near us asked, "Are we clapping because he did a good job, or clapping because they're taking him out?" We patiently explained that it was a little of both, and a little bit because we were scared of what might happen once Tavvy had the ball. But he got a quick out to end the inning and followed it with a pair of 1-2-3 innings at lightning speed. The tone of conversation in our little bit of grandstand changed from, "Oh dear, Tavvy time" to "Julian Tavarez, bitches and gentlemen!" He got a standing O for his trouble, and there was no mistaking the intent; that was love.
Daddy Delcarmen and Okajima-Okey-Dokey were both reassuringly effective, and we expected Okajima back to begin the ninth, but then the opening chords of "Wild Thing"*** blared out, and that's when the game really turned around. Papelbon jogged in and paused, prayerfully, on the edge of the infield, and the feeling began to spread through the stands that Francona was doing the right thing**** by sending in Mr. C. Ocho, save or no save. As hapless as the Sox had seemed to that point, the game suddenly seemed to be ours for the taking.
III. Mr. Clutch Is Back
When Papi hit one over the bullpens in the fourth and made the score 4-3, we said to ourselves, "Well, if nothing comes out of this game but the scarring humiliation of losing a home series to a team that wears vests, at least we got to see a classic Ortiz home run." We had several innings to think about what a nice memory that would be, and how we'd hold onto it through the long dark teatime of the off-night. We were prepared. Maybe even resigned.
Then Lugo drew the walk to lead off the ninth, and we started to wonder.
Papi comes to the plate, one on, one out, and of course every one of our 37,000 friends is thinking it.***** But we're all hedging our bets, reminding ourselves that Papi's already blasted in the few runs we have, and we can't expect him to actually single-handedly carry the team. We're thinking that a double would be really nice; that even a long single that got Lugo to third would give us a solid shot at tying the thing up. We're remembering Coco knocking Tek around from second a month ago off the very pitcher we see before us, and we're on our feet hoping that at least it doesn't end here with a double play.
The count goes to 3-1 and we figure they'll just throw him another ball and try to make Youk ground into a double play. But this is not a story about double plays.
Papi hits the ball about a mile in the air, and it just stays up there, floating, doing some kind of crazy dance, with all of us craning our necks and holding our breath to see where it might come down. From our vantage point (and apparently Tito's) it looks like it'll make the seats, but possibly fall foul. (We didn't realize until we saw NESN's replay that the ball was so close to catchable.)
Finally the ball drops, and drops, and disappears. For a split second, nobody is sure where it landed, or maybe nobody's sure they can trust what their eyes tell them they just saw.
Nobody relaxes until we realize that Lugo and Papi are running the bases, and the rest of the Sox are leaping the dugout fence to meet them at home plate.
Pandemonium. "Dirty Water." Hugs. High-fives. Beer. Magic.
This is a story about baseball. In baseball, one swing of the bat can clear away three and a half hours of doubt and depression. In baseball, a bullpen that keeps a stuffed parrot as a mascot can pull together for what really should be credited as a combined win. In baseball, there's no such thing as running out of time.
The moral of the story is that we love our Papi and he loves us.
*Here, have a crappy cell phone picture.
**"Activity from both ends." Ugh. Thanks for sharing, Tito.
***Which are also the opening chords of "Louie, Louie." They are actually the exact same song.
****And that's an unfamiliar feeling in any game which features Eric Hinske at first base.
*****Okay, maybe not every one. We did spot a grand total of two people wearing Devil Ray gear. But we can't say for sure that they weren't being ironic.