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2004: Diary of a Season
Clippers 9, Pawsox 5
The Red Sox had been in Minnesota when the big trade happened. Doug Mientkiewicz was traded from the Twins, so he was able to play for his new team that night. He went 2-4, but the Sox lost. The next day, Orlando Cabrera joined the team and homered in his first at-bat, but they lost again, falling behind Texas in the wild card race. See, Theo? The GM had said that they wouldn't win in the postseason with the team the way it was, but now it looked like they wouldn't even make it to the playoffs! While they headed off to Tampa Bay for the second week of their road trip, I took in a game in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, home of the Red Sox' Triple A affiliate. Tonight they were facing the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees' Triple A club.
Jamie Brown, who had pitched briefly in relief for the big-league Sox earlier in the year, was starting for Pawtucket. Shortstop Cesar Crespo, first baseman Brian Daubach, and catcher Andy Dominique also had spent time in Boston earlier in the year. The rest of the lineup - outfielders George Lombard, Adam Hyzdu, and Justin Sherrod; third baseman Earl Snyder; second baseman Jesus Medrano; and DH Tony Shrager - were all familiar from either spring training or last year's Sea Dogs game. The game got off to a good start, as Brown didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. Meanwhile, the Pawsox batted around in the bottom of the fourth, giving them a 4-0 lead. Brown gave up a two-run homer in the sixth, but Medrano led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to extend the lead to 5-2. He had just been called up from Double A, and this was his first career Triple A homer.
I liked that between innings they didn't do all the gimmicky minor league promotional games like the Sea Dogs and Spinners do. There were a few trivia questions, and highlights of the major league Red Sox game. (Thanks to Dave McCarty's three-run homer, they were leading the Devil Rays 6-3.) After Brown pitched six good innings, Edwin Almonte came in for the seventh. He gave up three runs, the final one on a balk, which tied up the game. "No problem," I told my friend. "Dauber will just have to hit a walk-off homer." Then I changed my mind, because it's never the obvious person who hits the walk-off. Daubach had had too many game-winning hits with the Red Sox, so I decided to go with the least-likely candidate. "No, actually Crespo's going to be the hero tonight. He'll hit the walk-off!" Stranger things had happened; a few years ago I had seen Andy Sheets hit a walk-off home run for the Pawsox. But that didn't happen tonight. Almonte gave up another run in the eighth, and he and Matt Duff combined to give up four more in the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, Earl Snyder homered and two more batters reached base, but Crespo grounded to short for the final out of the game.
I was happy, though, because the 6-3 Red Sox score went final. (We heard in the car on the way home that Mark Bellhorn was going on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. With Pokey Reese already on the D.L., this would create some interesting infield configurations over the next two weeks.) The next day, Brian Daubach hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game for the Pawsox. Two days later, Cesar Crespo hit a walk-off homer for another dramatic win.
Red Sox 14, Devil Rays 4
The Red Sox finished up their two-week road trip by taking two of three in Tampa Bay and two of three in Detroit. They finally returned to Fenway and split the first two games of a series against the Devil Rays. I came on Wednesday for the third game. A lot had changed in the three weeks since I'd last been there. Newcomers Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera were in the lineup tonight, and Dave Roberts would make an appearance as a pinch runner before the end of the game. When Cabrera was announced as the starting lineups were read, I yelled out, "Nomahhhhhhh!" which I immediately felt badly about. I didn't want to hold it against Cabrera or make him feel unwelcome, because everything I had heard about him suggested he was a good player. But I needed some way of expressing to Red Sox ownership that I wasn't happy about the trade. Mostly, I realized we hadn't had a chance to say goodbye to Nomar. If we thought he was leaving at the end of the season as a free agent, we would have given him a standing ovation every time up in the last home game of the season, in case that was his last at-bat with the Sox. But the last game I had been to was July 21, and Nomar had had the day off. The last time I saw him was July 9 against Texas, when he had gone 3-4.
Happily, the new guys and their existing teammates gave me plenty to cheer about. Although Derek Lowe gave up a run in the first inning, Kevin Millar slugged a three-run homer in the home half. The Sox broke it open in the second, when they batted around, with Mientkiewicz, David Ortiz, Millar, and Jason Varitek knocking in five runs. In the third it was Johnny Damon's two-run double and Tek's bases-loaded double that scored another five. Lowe came out after giving up two runs in the sixth, and most of the other starters followed. Dave McCarty, Gabe Kapler, and Doug Mirabelli all made appearances, along with Roberts and Ricky Gutierrez, the backup middle infielder who had also been recently added to the team. With Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn both on the D.L., Bill Mueller had started second base with Kevin Youkilis at third, with Gutierrez coming in to replace Mueller. Everyone was enjoying the loose atmosphere of a good blowout. We were in left field, so we had a good view of the Red Sox dugout when Pedro Martinez appeared with a red toy bat, which he waved around as if he wanted to bat.
On the way home on the T, it was even more tightly packed than usual. One person had a guide dog, and he (the dog, not the person!) kept sniffing at my ankles with his big wet nose until I was finally able to move.
White Sox 5, Red Sox 4
After another win on Thursday, the Sox dropped Friday's game to Chicago, then won on Saturday. On Sunday, I had my game in the standing room on the new right field roof. Thanks to the remnants of hurricane Charlie, the day was overcast and cool - only 63 degrees, even though it was an afternoon game in mid-August. When the wind picked up later, it felt even chillier. (At least it wasn't raining. I was worried because if the game was rained out, I could trade the tickets for another available game. But there weren't any roof tickets left, so I'd wind up in the bleachers and lose out on my chance to see a game from the roof.)
We had standing room tickets, and had staked out a good spot. There's a counter behind the back row of the table-and-chair seats, like on the Green Monster, so again it was nice to have something to lean against and put our things on. To sit at the tables, tickets had to be purchased in groups of four, and the price of the tickets includes $100 worth of food per table, which is served by waiters and waitresses. (The four people at one of the tables in front of us ended up spending $133 on food over the course of the game, and had to pay the additional $33 at the end.) All that's a little too gimmicky for me. It's a baseball game, after all! I'm much happier with a hotdog or the $3 slice of pizza I get on my way into the park. But it was still nice to get to see a game from another new perspective. The view was nice, but unlike the Green Monster which felt closer to the action than it was, this felt far away.
The game started off well. Bronson Arroyo retired the first ten batters he faced. The Red Sox had three walks in the first, but they were all stranded when Orlando Cabrera grounded out to end the inning. After stranding another runner in the second, they finally put three hits together in the third, but still didn't score, as Kevin Youkilis was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. He collided with Chicago catcher Sandy Alomar, and both players had to leave the game. Youkilis was later listed as day-to-day, but I hoped it wouldn't be long because we had too many injured infielders as it was. In the fourth, Arroyo allowed two runs, but it was only a single, a double, a stolen base, and a groundout. Just like many of his starts this year, he was pitching well but with no run support. The Red Sox went in order in the fourth and fifth. They finally got two runs to tie the game up in the sixth, when Doug Mientkiewicz knocked in Jason Varitek and Cabrera.
Arroyo gave up another cheesy run in the seventh, on a single, a stolen base, and two fly balls. All the stranded baserunners earlier in the game were starting to hurt. In the eighth, Alan Embree gave up a hit and Mike Timlin allowed a two-run homer, making it 5-2. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but this time it was pinch-hitter Dave Roberts who struck out to end the threat. In the ninth, Varitek, who had really heated up offensively in the past week, got his third hit of the game, a bases-loaded double that scored two runs. But in the end it wasn't enough. Cabrera was the only other player with three hits in the game, but he grounded out to the pitcher to end the game with the tying run in scoring position. It's too bad that a game with a nice view from an interesting area turned out to be so frustrating. There had been so many scoring opportunites that they hadn't been able to take advantage of. The team had too much potential to keep playing like this! They were now 10.5 games behind the Yankees, and behind Texas in the wild card race.
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