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2006: Diary of a Season

Wednesday, May 3 - Fenway Park, Section 42

Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6

After my last game, the Red Sox went on an unsuccessful road trip to Toronto, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay, losing two of three in each city. But when they returned to Boston for the first game of the season against the Yankees, they had one of the most dramatic wins of the year. On Monday morning, we heard that the Red Sox had traded Josh Bard and minor leaguer Cla Meredith to the San Diego Padres for Doug Mirabelli. Bard had struggled to catch the knuckleball and hadn't done anything at the plate. As a result, Wakefield had a dismal 1-4 record despite a respectable 3.90 ERA. Mirabelli was the only person who could catch Wake; the only question was whether he'd be able to make it across the country in time for that night's game against the Yankees. A police escort met him at the airport, and he changed into his uniform in the car, making it to Fenway just in time for the first pitch. He received a hero's welcome, while returning traitor Johnny Damon was roundly booed at each at-bat. In the end, Johnny went 0-for-4, Mirabelli had no passed balls, and David Ortiz hit a three-run homer off Mike Myers into a strong wind to put an exclamation point on a 7-3 win. On Tuesday, the game was rained out, and by the time I went to Wednesday's game, the Blue Jays were in town.

It had rained all day, and the tarp was on the field when I arrived. The game only started a few minutes late, but it continued to rain throughout the night, so I couldn't take too many pictures. The matchup was Josh Beckett against Roy Halladay. Both pitchers struggled in the second inning. The Blue Jays only had one hit, but it was a bases-loaded double after two walks and a hit batter. For the Red Sox, it was five straight singles and a sac fly by the fourth through ninth hitters in the lineup, and it tied the score 3-3. Toronto squeezed out another run in the fifth, and Beckett was done for the night with over 100 pitches by the end of the inning. RBI hits by Mike Lowell and Wily Mo Pena gave the Sox a 5-4 lead in the sixth and knocked Halladay out. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Keith Foulke gave up a two-run homer to Shea Hillenbrand in the seventh. These back-and-forth games can be exciting if we win, but in the meantime it's frustrating watching the bullpen blow every lead they're given.

In the eighth, Lowell's third hit of the game tied it up again,at 6-6. Jonathan Papelbon came on for the ninth. He was 10-for-10 in save opportunities and had not allowed a run all year. This time it wasn't a save opportunity, because the game was tied, but with Big Papi due to lead off the bottom of the inning, he just needed to do what he had been doing all year and keep the Blue Jays off the bases. But Lyle Overbay singled to start the inning. After a nice catch in right field by Dustan Mohr, Greg Zaun singled. Russ Adams followed with a double, and the Blue Jays had the lead again. It was the first run he had allowed all season, but it was costly. Big Papi struck out in the ninth, and no one else could muster anything either.

Thursday, May 4 - Fenway Park, Section 35

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 4

Matt Clement pitches We were back the next day, and it was already a better night before the game even started. The rain had finally stopped, and the gametime temperature was announced at 72. I didn't even need to put my coat on until the sun went down. We were in straightaway center - no poles, no puddles, no fences, just a good, clear view of the field. Unlike some games when any pre-game good will evaporates as soon as the game starts, tonight's first inning kept the mood light. A double and two walks loaded the bases with one out, and Trot Nixon's groundout knocked in a run. Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell hit back-to-back doubles, scoring three more. Wily Mo Pena followed with an RBI single, and the Sox had a 5-0 lead. Even Matt Clement had a good outing tonight. Although he walked four batters and had a lot of baserunners, he managed to work out of it each time. Only a single run in the sixth marred his night. Kevin Youkilis added a two-run homer after Lowell's second double of the game, for a nice, cushy (or so we thought) 7-1 lead.

Keith Foulke made it through the seventh, and there was a collective groan when Rudy Seanez came on for the eighth. When he gave up a double to Vernon Wells, a "Pap-el-bon, Pap-el-bon" chant started up despite the six-run lead. Troy Glaus followed with a homer, and the chanting intensified. The "Pap-el-bon" chants continued as Julian Tavarez jogged in to start the ninth. He got one out, but then gave up a home run to Eric Hinske. Pap-el-bon! At least the closer was now warming up. Aaron Hill followed with a single. Pap-el-bon! Pap-el-bon! At long last, Terry Francona emerged from the dugout and made the call to the bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon got a wild standing ovation as he entered the game. He quickly struck out Russ Adams, allowed a single to Frank Catalanotto, and got Vernon Wells to hit a comebacker to the mound to end it.

Friday, May 12 - Fenway Park, Section 39

Rangers 6, Red Sox 0

Fenway in the fog The Red Sox swept the Orioles at home over the weekend, then took two of three from the Yankees in New York. I was back the next Friday night, but the forecast for the whole weekend looked bad. It wasn't raining when we got to the game, but the sky was threatening. The forecast was for heavy rain to start during the game and continue all weekend long, putting Saturday's and Sunday's games in jeopardy. Our seats were in the upper bleachers despite the fact that we had gotten them the first day tickets had gone on sale. At least our seats were together tonight; there were a few games later in the season where we ended up piggy-backed or scattered across a couple of rows. When the game started, it was very foggy. As far back as we were, we could barely see home plate! There was a strong wind too, and I was freezing. I always dress in layers for games, and try to add a layer every few innings, saving some warm clothes for later in the game. But tonight I had my winter hat and even my gloves on in the first inning.

I don't know how I kept ending up with Matt Clement's games, but it was his turn again tonight. He had last pitched eight days ago, at my last game. With an off-day Monday, they had skipped his turn in the rotation so he wouldn't have to face the Yankees. He was upset about that, but I hoped he'd pitch well to try to prove them wrong. He did OK in the first, but gave up a solo homer in the second. But in the third, he fell apart. He gave up one run on a double and a single, got two outs, then gave up another double and another single, scoring two more. At that point it began raining. As soon as the inning was over, we grabbed our stuff and headed for cover. It was already cold and we couldn't see, so there was no need to get soaked too. We stood for an inning behind the last row of the Section 1 grandstand in right field. At least that was under cover. Then in the fourth we moved over behind first base. The grandstand area was full, but there were plenty of uncovered box seats for the taking. It was still a solid rain, but the fog lifted and the wind died down, so I wasn't as cold any more.

Fenway in the rain I didn't mind sitting in the rain if it meant a nice view of the game, but unfortunately the quality of the game left a lot to be desired. The Red Sox weren't able to do anything offensively off the immortal Kameron Loe. Clement ended up making it through five innings, but the Sox were down 4-0. I was surprised the game wasn't called at the end of the fifth, but maybe they figured if they weren't going to be able get the next two games in, they might as well go as long as they could tonight. Besides, it was only a four-run deficit, which shouldn't be insurmountable. So they started the sixth. Mike Holtz made his only appearance of the year for the Sox. They had started the year with no lefties in the 'pen, and this was their latest attempt to find one. It was raining so hard that I had to put away my scorecard, so I don't have all the gory details, but he allowed two more runs. (I just looked it up, but I wish I hadn't. He gave up three walks, hit a batter, and allowed a triple. That's pretty gory!) Big Papi led off the bottom of the sixth, and he worked a 2-2 count. Suddenly, right in the middle of his at-bat, the umps signaled for the grounds crew to bring out the tarp, and the players cleared the field. It was particularly insulting that after sitting in the cold and rain all night watching a pitiful game, they wouldn't let us at least have a Papi at-bat to watch. That's all we had left to live for at that point in the game! We all knew once play stopped that they weren't going to resume the game. But the rule is they have to wait half an hour before officially calling it. A lot of people left, so we were able to move back a few rows into the grandstand where we were under cover again. A half-hour came and went, and the players were probably already on their way home, but we were still waiting. Finally, 52 minutes into the rain delay, at almost 10:00, the official announcement was made that the game was over. And as expected, both Saturday's and Sunday's games were rained out.

Wednesday, May 24 - Fenway Park, Section 43

Yankees 8, Red Sox 6

After the rainy weekend against the Rangers, the Red Sox went on the road. They took two of three in Baltimore and two of three in Philadelphia, then returned home and split the first two games against the Yankees. I was back for the rubber game of the series, and guess who was pitching... That's right, it was my ninth game of the year, and my fourth Matt Clement start, including the last three in a row. The Red Sox were in first place, and Curt Schilling was leading the league in wins, but it seemed like I must have purchased the Clement Package when tickets went on sale (I had been in attendance for every one of his home starts so far) and I had only a 4-4 record to show for it.

Fenway Park Still, he was going up against Randy Johnson, who had also been struggling this season, so I figured there was hope. I was wearing my "Johnny WHO???" shirt, but the Yankees centerfielder had the night off, so I wouldn't get a chance to boo him tonight. Manny Ramirez hit a towering two-run homer to start the game off on a good note. Clement cruised through the first and the beginning of the second, then got hit by a comebacker to the mound. I felt terrible for him because he had been drilled in the head by a line drive last year. He stayed in the game, but he couldn't get out of the inning without giving up four runs. Kevin Youkilis's two-run homer tied it up in the second, and in the third Manny doubled and ran through third base coach DeMarlo Hale's stop sign to score on Jason Varitek's single, giving the Sox the lead again. But Clement couldn't get through the fifth to qualify for the win without getting charged with four more runs. It was an absolutely pathetic display, especially on a night when the Sox had actually managed to score five runs off Randy Johnson! And the fact that Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez came on in relief and pitched better than him was also pathetic!

I was thoroughly disgusted after the game, which went until almost 11:00. It was 11:45 before I got back to my car at the T station, and I got on the Mass. Pike to drive home. It's usually about an hour's ride from there, but just after the Route 95 interchange, I hit lane closures for paving (this is at 12:30 in the morning, by the way) where four lanes went down to one. I was only five miles from the next exit, where I could get off and go an alternate way. But those five miles took - no exaggeration - an hour and a half! Where did all these cars come from? Where were they going? I was scowling angrily at every car with New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut license plates, in case they were coming from the game too. The longer I sat there barely inching forward, the angrier I got at Clement. He was clearly not 100 percent healthy. But he was getting painful to watch. He should just go on the D.L. already, before I end up there too! But with David Wells still out and his replacement Lenny DiNardo also spending time on the D.L., I think they were trying to hold out as long as they could with Clement. I finally got off the Pike and was home half an hour later, at almost 2:30 in the morning. Brutal! The commute would have been bearable if I had just witnessed a dramatic win, but it's horrible after already having been subjected to a nasty loss.

After a whopping four hours of sleep, I wasn't in a particularly cheerful mood at work the next morning. After commiserating with my co-workers for a while, I ended up making the following sign, which I hung outside my cubicle: "HAZ-MATT is making me CLE-MENTAL!!! 'Nuf Ced." That made me feel a little better.

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