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2004: Diary of a Season
Red Sox 12, Phillies 3
After my Wednesday night game, the Sox lost again Thursday. They won big against the Phillies on Friday, then lost big on Saturday. I was back on Sunday as they tried to salvage the week and finish at .500 for the homestand. Sending Curt Schilling to the mound seemed to be the best way to accomplish that.
Curt gave up solo homers to Pat Burrell and David Bell in the second, and allowed another run on a double and a single in the third. Not to worry, though, because the Sox' bats got going in the bottom of the third. Kevin Youkilis walked, and Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn both singled. After David Ortiz struck out, Manny Ramirez hit a ground-rule double to score two runs. Nomar Garciaparra followed with another ground-rule double, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead. That was the beautiful thing about having three big bats in a row; if one hitter didn't come through, the others would. Even though Ortiz was batting third and Nomar fifth, the reverse of last year, runs were scoring, no matter the order of the lineup. Ortiz wasn't left out of the fun for long, though. He launched a two-run homer in the fifth, then joined Manny in belting RBI hits in the seventh.
In the top of the seventh, I was minding my own business, innocently watching a good baseball game, when I felt something wet on my arm. A bird had pooped on me! He was kind enough to get the girl next to me, too. "Isn't that supposed to be good luck?" I asked, as we both brushed ourselves off. It must have been - Alan Embree was on the mound at the time, and he had some baserunners but got out of the inning unscathed, and the bullpen did not give up any more runs. (In case you're wondering, I denoted the event as P.P. on my scorecard, for "Pigeon Poop".)
The rout was on in the eighth, when the Sox added four more runs on Youkilis's RBI single and Bellhorn's three-run homer. After games like this, where the pitching was good, the offense was formidable, and the bullpen did its job, it was hard to understand how they ever lost a game. Certainly all the pieces were there, and they should be running away with the A.L. East. Instead, they had been bumbling through June, winning one day then losing the next, and were now 5.5 games back.
Red Sox 8, A's 7, 10 inn.
Despite the encouraging win I had seen in my last game, the next week was one of the most painful of the season. First came a three-game sweep by the Yankees, then an extra-inning loss in Atlanta. The lone bright spot on the road trip came Saturday. After two straight extra-inning losses, the bullpen was shot, so Curt Schilling promptly pitched a complete game, striking out ten and providing the only win of the week. Nomar continued to need about every third game off, as he recovered from his Achilles heel injury. When they returned home, it was a different story. The Oakland A's came in, and they had struggled against the Sox ever since being defeated in the Division Series last year. The Sox won the first two games 11-0 and 11-3, and I was back for the third game of the series. I decided to wear the "Cowboy Up" shirt I had gotten for the playoffs last year. I hadn't worn it to a game yet this year, because it was last year's slogan and the season hadn't ended well. But I figured today's game was a good one to wear it to, since we were playing the A's, and the team could stand to recapture some of the spark they had had in '03.
Schilling was pitching, and after a leadoff double by Mark Kotsay, he struck out the side in the first. "Big Papi" Ortiz homered in the bottom of the inning, giving the Sox a 1-0 lead. Manny Ramirez's three-run homer in the third landed in the Red Sox' bullpen, right in front of our seats, and extended the lead to 4-0. After Eric Byrnes hit a solo homer in the fifth, Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar drove in three more runs for a nice, comfortable 7-1 lead.
What happened next was all my fault, for wearing the "Cowboy Up" shirt. Just like in a typical 2003 game, Curt opened the sixth with four straight singles, which scored two more runs and knocked him from the game. Mike Timlin gave up one more in the seventh, and he combined with Keith Foulke to give up three more in the eighth. Just like last year, the six-run lead hadn't been enough, and the game was tied. Now it would take a good old-fashioned "Cowboy Up"-type rally to win the game. Trot tripled in the bottom of the ninth, but didn't score. With two outs in the tenth, Johnny Damon singled, for his third hit of the day. Bill Mueller, only recently back from the knee surgery which had landed him on the D.L. in May, hit a double off The Wall. Johnny raced home from first, scoring just in time to beat the throw. Just like all those wild games last year! We stayed around while their teammates mobbed Mueller and Damon, then watched as the final hit was replayed a few more times on the scoreboard.
Red Sox 7, Rangers 0
After seeing the Red Sox complete the sweep of the A's, I was back the next night for the opening game of a series against the Rangers. (No heart-attack-inducing, extra-inning, walk-off win for me tonight - I had a nice, generic Red Sox T-shirt on.) Michael Young led off with a double, but he was erased when Hank Blalock lined right to Mark Bellhorn, who stepped on second to double off Young. It was a good thing, too, because Alfonso Soriano followed with a double, before Bronson Arroyo finally got out of the inning. Soriano had been traded from the Yankees to the Rangers in exchange for Alex Rodriguez in a blockbuster trade during the off-season, and every time he came to the plate he was serenaded with "Yankees suck" chants, even though he was now with Texas.
Johnny Damon led off the home half of the inning with a hit. He had started the season very slowly, but on this homestand he was making a bid to be named Player of the Week. He had had five hits on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, and three on Thursday, bringing his average over .300 in the process. He went to third on David Ortiz's single, and scored on Manny Ramirez's sacrifice fly. In the third, Michael Young again reached base, and he was again doubled off when Blalock hit a line drive out, this time to Kevin Millar at first. In the sixth, the Rangers hit into their third line drive double play of the day. This time it was Soriano who lined out to Millar, who then threw to second to double off Blalock.
Damon continued his hot streak, homering to lead off the fifth for a 2-0 lead. The Red Sox finally opened it up in the sixth, when Nomar Garciaparra reached on an infield single, then Trot Nixon walked and Millar was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Bill Mueller knocked in one run on a sac fly, then Damon hit a double to knock in two more. We were sitting in center field, so we got to cheer Johnny every time he took his place in the field. The Red Sox tacked on another run in the seventh on three straight hits by Manny, Nomar, and Trot. Then in the eighth, Johnny hit his second homer of the day, driving in his fourth run. When he came out to center field for the ninth, we stood and chanted his name for the whole inning. Arroyo had gone eight impressive innings, allowing no runs and only three hits, and Curtis Leskanic finished it off in the ninth.
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