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Fenway Gridiron

Saturday, November 11, 2017 – Fenway Park, Loge box 137

UMass 44, Maine 31

On a sunny but cold Saturday afternoon, UMass squared off against Maine as part of the Fenway Gridiron Series.  I’ve lived in both states but didn’t attend either schoool; I was just there to get my Fenway fix a month after the last home baseball game was played.

Everyone's been telling me to watch football to help take my mind off baseball during the off-season. Not sure why, but it doesn't seem to be working.

Everyone's been telling me to watch football to help take my mind off baseball during the off-season. Not sure why, but it doesn't seem to be working.

I was treated to an entertaining (albeit cold) game.  UMass scored a touchdown on their first possession, then Maine ran back the kickoff for a touchdown of their own.  UMass went up 24-7 in the second quarter, but a safety and a touchdown with a two-point conversion helped Maine tie it back up.  UMass jumped out to another two-score lead in the third, but Maine got close and had a chance to take the lead with two minutes left in the game.  My seat was behind home plate, but with an attendance just over 12,000, there were plenty of empties to choose from.  I started out in the bleachers, and spent the first half moving to a different section with every change of possession, so I could see the game from all angles.

It was fun to try to capture pictures of the game action.

It was fun to try to capture pictures of the game action.

As someone who normally photographs baseball, I thought football would be harder with lots of people moving around on every play, but I was actually able to get some good shots of the action. I found it easier to photograph than hockey.  An album with all my pictures from every angle is available on Flickr.  If you’ve ever wondered what Fenway Park looks like reflected in a tuba, check out the album.

November 11, 2017 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

Return Trip

Saturday, July 22, 2017 – Hadlock Field, Portland

Yard Goats 5, Sea Dogs 0

Usually I only make it to one Sea Dogs game a year, but this year I had a second one.  It came only two weeks after the first, but my return didn’t come soon enough to see top prospect Rafael Devers, who had already been promoted to Pawtucket.

This time our seats were on the first base side, right behind the Sea Dogs dugout.

This time our seats were on the first base side, right behind the Sea Dogs dugout.

Today’s starter was Roenis Elias, who was actually on a rehab assignment for an intercostal strain after spending most of the year in Pawtucket.  Although the first batter of the game reached on an error, he was erased on a double play.  In the second, another Portland error meant another baserunner, but Elias got out of it with two fly balls and a strikeout.  In the third, he allowed a solo homer, then a walk and a balk, before getting the next two batters out.  He was lifted with two outs in the third, after having thrown 47 pitches, most likely because he had a limit of 50 pitches for the rehab start.

Roenis Elias went 2-2/3 innings with 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, and 1 K on his rehab start.

Roenis Elias went 2-2/3 innings with 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, and 1 K on his rehab start.

Second baseman Josh Tobias turned a double play in the first inning.

Second baseman Josh Tobias turned a double play in the first inning.

Outfielders Danny Mars, Cole Sturgeon, and Jeremy Barfield wait out a pitching change.

Outfielders Danny Mars, Cole Sturgeon, and Jeremy Barfield wait out a pitching change.

Elias was replaced by Teddy Stankiewicz, whose normal turn it was to start.  He finished the third, and pitched the next 5-2/3 innings.  Along the way he gave up one run on back-to-back triples in the seventh.  The Sea Dogs offense, though, reminded me a bit too much of their big league brethren.  All eight hits they got were singles, and they couldn’t put enough of them together to knock in any runs.  Shortstop Chad De La Guerra, DH Michael Chavis, and catcher Jake Romanski each had two hits, with Danny Mars and Jeremy Barfield accounting for the others.

Michael Chavis was 2-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Chavis was 2-for-4 at the plate.

Jake Romanski also had two hits.

Jake Romanski also had two hits.

Stankiewicz left with one out and one on in the top of the ninth.  The Sea Dogs only trailed by two runs at the time, but it was about to get worse.  Three hits later, three runs were in, and the home team now trailed by five.

Sidearmer Trevor Kelley pitched the ninth.

Sidearmer Trevor Kelley pitched in the ninth.

Third baseman Mike Olt grounded out to end the game.

Third baseman Mike Olt grounded out to end the game.

At least the weather was perfect, and we were treated to a pretty sunset.

At least the weather was perfect, and we were treated to a pretty sunset over the Maine Monster.

Two weeks ago, the 6:00 game had been so short (just over two hours) that it was still light out when we left.  This time it was closer to a three hour game, and the sun was setting a little earlier now.  Even though the afternoon started out overcast, we were treated to a pretty sky in the late innings.  It’s too bad the quality of play couldn’t have equaled the setting.

July 22, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games, Minors • No Comments

Uber-Excited

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4, 15 innings

After the All-Star Break, the Red Sox opened by splitting a four-game series with the Yankees, including a 16-inning loss on Saturday followed by a doubleheader on Sunday.  So much for resting up!  Now the Blue Jays were in town for a four-game set.  I had entered and won a Season Ticket Holder raffle for pre-game on-field passes before Tuesday’s game.  All that meant was I got to enter early and stand on the warning track in front of home plate during batting practice.  Any Season Ticket Holder can go in the early entrance line with Red Sox Nation members 2½ hours before the game, but they’re confined to the bleachers and the Green Monster seats.  This time, I got to enter at the same time but was ushered right down to a roped-off area between the dugout and home plate.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to lift our spirits.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to give love.

When I came in with a couple of other Season Ticket Holders at 4:45, there was a group already on the field wearing badges that said 4:30.  They must have been from some tour group or package, but it meant we couldn’t get up that close.  It was also the end of Red Sox batting practice, so we only saw the last group of hitters: Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, and Christian Vazquez.  Jason Varitek was also out watching with the rest of the coaches.  When Red Sox B.P. wrapped up and the Blue Jays started to hit, we got to stay there, and eventually the tour group left, so I moved up as the grounds crew rolled away the batting cage and set up for the game.  It was really humid and the sky looked like it would open up at any minute, but the rain held off.

I wonder why the grounds crew is sticking so close to the tarp...

When the sky looks like this, the grounds crew sticks close to the tarp.

After getting something to eat, I went out to the bleachers to watch Brian Johnson warm up.  He wasn’t out there yet, but one look at the sky told me why.  It was pretty obvious that rain was imminent, so I thought it was funny that they went ahead with the pre-game festivities (blood donor of the game, bat kids of the game, multiple ceremonial “first” pitches, etc.) even as the sky got darker and darker.  It’s like no one told the P.A. announcer, as he prattled on while the grounds crew started unrolling the tarp around them.  They finally got the pre-game participants off the field and the tarp in place just before the rain started.  I went up to the covered grandstand seats in Section 2 to wait out the delay.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

It poured really hard for about a half-hour, and when it lightened up the grounds crew came back out to start rolling up the tarp.  By the time they were ready to start, it was 8:10, one hour late.  The rain had stopped and it was a lot more pleasant than when I had first arrived, and I went out to my seat in straightaway center, over near the flagpole.  Johnson was pitching because with the doubleheader on Sunday, they needed a sixth starter.  He had been called up before the game along with fellow PawSox starter Hector Velazquez.  To make room, Robby Scott and Sam Travis were sent down.  It was interesting that they had called up two starters, even if both were expected to be here for just a day, but with the doubleheader and a long extra-inning game, the bullpen was pretty depleted.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

Johnson lived dangerously in the early innings, but he managed to escape each time, stranding two runners in the first, three in the second, and another in the third.  In the bottom of the second, a light rain started up.  I like watching games from Section 34, but I know how long it takes to get to the exit ramp beyond Section 36 if it rains, so I figured I’d better make a run for it now while I still could.  I wound up in the standing room behind Section 2 for the top of the third, then moved into an unoccupied seat for the bottom of the third.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Chris Young got the Sox on the board first with a solo homer in the fourth.  But in the top of the fifth, the Blue Jays scored three runs on four hits and a walk.  Dustin Pedroia homered in the sixth to pull the Sox back within a run, and then in the seventh Brock Holt singled, stole second, and scored on Pedey’s double to tie the game.  I had used the seventh inning stretch to move around to empty seats in Section 16 of the infield grandstand.

Toronto threatened in the eighth, with runners at the corners and nobody out, but Pedey took matters into his own hands.  Kevin Pillar hit a sharp grounder to second, where Pedey grabbed it, chased the runner on first back and tagged him himself, and still had time to throw to first to get Pillar out.  All the while, the runner on third couldn’t advance.  Matt Barnes struck out the final batter of the inning to get out of it all unscathed.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Barnes had pitched the seventh and eighth, and Craig Kimbrel threw a scoreless ninth.  Neither team scored during that time, so the game headed to extras.  Even with the rain delay, it was still before midnight, so if they could find a way to win it in ten, I’d have no problem catching the T to get back to my car.  Since Pedey had already had a homer, a game-tying double, and a great defensive play, I just assumed that he had one more trick up his sleeve and that he’d be the one to win it for us.  He batted in the tenth with a runner aboard, but surprisingly hit into a double play.  On to the eleventh!

Brandon Workman gave up a leadoff double, then a hit to move the runner to third, then a sac fly to give the Jays the lead.  An intentional walk and a double play got him out of it.  As he pitched, a message popped up on the scoreboard saying that the last trains leave Kenmore and Fenway at 12:20.  I used the restroom between innings, figuring that if they could win in the bottom of the eleventh, there’d be just enough time to run down the street and hop on the T.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to open the eleventh.  Sandy Leon tried to bunt him over, and the ball bounced high over the third baseman’s head so he reached safely.  Deven Marrero was also asked to bunt, but he couldn’t get one down, and bunted strike three foul.  After Holt struck out, Mookie Betts saved the day with a single that scored Jackie with the tying run, but Xander Bogaerts, pinch-running for Leon, made the third out of the inning trying to advance to third on the play.  At least it was tied up now.  On to the twelfth!

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The move to call up two starters for tonight’s game was looking mighty smart right now.  A rested and stretched out Hector Velazquez came on and pitched a 1-2-3 twelfth.  Again I found myself thinking of other late games I had been to when they held the T later than usual because the game was still going.  If they could win it in the twelfth, I’d head right to the T station and probably still be able to get on.  But the Red Sox went down in order, and the game headed to the thirteenth.  That’s when I downloaded the Uber app and got an account set up.  Velazquez threw another quick inning.  One batter singled, but Christian Vazquez threw him out.

In the bottom of the thirteenth, Mitch Moreland opened the inning with a strikeout.  Bradley struck out too, but the wild pitch got past the catcher and he was able to reach base.  Vazquez struck out for the second out of the inning, and Marerro struck out to end it – the first time I’ve witnessed a four-strikeout inning in person.  (And yes, I was still keeping score; I can use the AB, R, H, RBI, and BB columns to fit up to fifteen innings before I’d need to start on a new page.)

Velazquez had another quick inning in the top of the fourteenth, and then Fenway organist Josh Kantor led us in the singing of the fourteenth inning stretch.  The Sox went down in order again in the bottom of the inning, and it was on to the fifteenth.  I had been to one fourteen inning game before, but this was a new record for me.  At this point, I had already missed the T, and I was down in a comfy field box seat behind the Red Sox dugout, so as far as I was concerned it might as well go 20 innings.  Who needs sleep anyway?

Just after 1 am, Velazquez completed another quick scoreless inning.  Pedroia led off the bottom of the inning – I was still convinced he was going to end up the hero – but he popped up to short.  That brought up Hanley Ramirez, who I had watched in batting practice eight hours ago, and he launched one high over the Green Monster to finally win the game.  Rather than douse him with the Powerade bucket during the post-game interview, as had become the custom, they brought the bucket right to the plate, a great time-saving move!

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Gatorade bucket.

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Powerade bucket.

I left the park and called for an Uber at 1:15.  My driver showed up at 1:30, and I was back to my car in Brookline at 1:45.  With no traffic, that got me home at 2:30, just enough time to catch four hours of sleep before getting to work at 9:00 the next morning.  (I admit it would have been a lot harder to get up in the morning if they hadn’t won, and I did leave work right at 5:00 so I could take a nap before watching the next night’s game on TV.)  But it was by far the most exciting game I had been to this year.

July 18, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Short Stop

Saturday, July 8, 2017 – Hadlock Field, Portland

Fightin’ Phils 4, Sea Dogs 3

After a span of four Red Sox games in six days, I had a gap of almost three weeks before I’d be back to Fenway.  So while the big leaguers went on a ten-game road trip that would be followed by the All-Star break, it was the perfect time for me to head to Portland to watch the Double-A Sea Dogs.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The last few years we’ve been seeing the Sea Dogs in June, but this year we were a little later.  All year I had been following the exploits of top prospect Rafael Devers, figuring there was no way he’d still be in Double-A in July.  Sure, he was only 20 years old and they didn’t want to rush him, but they were having so many issues with third base in the majors, so a promotion to at least Triple-A seemed imminent.  I was happy when Pablo Sandoval was sent on a rehab assignment, because it meant he’d be playing third in Triple-A most nights, leaving Devers in Portland where he could play every day.  The plan worked – he was still on the Sea Dogs’ roster when my July game rolled around, but I was disappointed when I got there and he was out of the lineup for the day.  (It didn’t dawn on me until I saw some tweets later that night about the All-Star Futures Game the next day; Devers was one of the minor leaguers chosen to participate in that showcase, and he had the day off because he was on his way to Miami, where the All-Star festivities were taking place.)  I did have another Sea Dogs game coming up in a couple of weeks, but surely he would be promoted by then.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

With Devers away, the highest-ranked prospect in the lineup was probably Michael Chavis, who had just been promoted from Single-A Salem a couple of weeks earlier.  He had been playing first base with Devers entrenched at third, but was at third base tonight.  Another recently-promoted player was shortstop Chad De La Guerra, who came up from Salem along with Chavis.  He got the game off to a good start with a solo homer in the first inning.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Starting for the Sea Dogs was Elih Villanueva.  At age 31, he’s not exactly on the prospect charts, and I had to look him up online to get the scoop.  He signed with the Sea Dogs in June as a minor league free agent.  He had made his Major League debut in 2011 with the Marlins (giving up 8 runs in 3 innings in one spot start), and last pitched in 2015 in the Orioles organization.  He was granted free agency at the end of ‘15 and didn’t play at all in ‘16.  So it was a pleasant surprise when he had a very good outing.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 1 ER and 7K in 6+ innings.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 2 ER and 7 K in 6-1/3 innings.

Villanueva worked a quick 1-2-3 first.  He let in the tying run in the second on a double and a single, but got out of it nicely by inducing an inning-ending double play.  After that he went on cruise control.  There was one baserunner in the third who reached on an error, and then no one reached base again until a two-out single in the sixth.  He was working really quickly, too.  In the middle of the fifth, he had thrown just 57 pitches.  Even more amazingly, the clock read 6:55 at the half-way point in the game – and the game had started at 6:00.  I had been to so many four-hour games at Fenway this year that even a three-hour “average” game would have felt fast to me, but this one was positively flying!  It was hard to keep up, between taking lots of pictures, scoring the game, following the end of Red Sox’ 4:00 game in Tampa (a frustrating 1-0 loss), and then juggling all of that when the vendor who sells “Sea Dog biscuit” ice cream sandwiches came by.

we had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

We had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Most players used Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo.  I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

Most players wore Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo. I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

The Sea Dogs took the lead in the fifth, when first baseman Mike Olt reached on an infield single, moved up on center fielder Cole Sturgeon’s groundout, and then scored on second baseman Deiner Lopez’s hit.  Villanueva allowed a one-out single in the seventh, and was replaced by Luis Ysla, who I remembered from Spring Training.  Ysla walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases, and two scored on a fielding error by Olt.  Left fielder Danny Mars saved them from more damage by making a diving catch for the second out, and a groundout ended the inning.  But now the Fightins had the lead, and they added an insurance run off Ysla in the ninth.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Jeremy Barfield, son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980's and 90's, was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Jeremy Barfield was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Right fielder Jeremy Barfield, the son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980’s and 90’s, hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to pull the Sea Dogs within a run, but that was all they got, and ended up losing 4-3.  The game ended just after 8:00, and I saw in the box score later that the official time for the full nine innings was two hours and eight minutes!  That’s got to be the shortest game I’ve ever been to – it certainly beats the 4 hour and 32 minute nine-inning game I sat through on Mother’s Day.   The whole thing took less time to play than it took for me to drive up to Portland.  Most years, I get good sunset pictures at Hadlock Field, but this one finished about 20 minutes before sunset, and I was already on the highway on my way home before the sky lit up.

July 8, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games, Minors • No Comments

Bird’s Eye View

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 – Pavilion Section 20

Twins 4, Red Sox 1

On Wednesday it was time for my fourth game in the past six days.  But this one was unique because it was part of a technical conference for work.  There’s a conference room on the fifth floor, right across the hall from the press box, that companies can rent out for events.  After meeting our hosts downstairs in the afternoon, we were taken up to the media level, down a hallway past the broadcast booths and the media cafeteria, to the conference room.  During a break, I passed the NESN booth on my way to the restroom, and saw that they were preparing to film the “open” to the night’s broadcast.  When the presentations from the conference wrapped up around 5:00, we got special wristbands allowing us free food and drink at the end of the Pavilion level concourse, and our seats for the game were in “Coca-Cola Corner,” the farthest section of the upper deck over in left field.  Warning: this section is not for those who don’t like heights – when you have to look down to see the Green Monster, you know you’re really up there!

Looking down on the Green Monster.

Looking down on the Green Monster.

It’s funny because I don’t often watch from that level, but I had been in the Pavilion standing room just five days ago, for the ceremony retiring Big Papi’s number 34.  That night I was over on the first base side, though, and the view was very different in left field.

View from Coca-Cola Corner.

View from Coca-Cola Corner.

What wasn’t any different was the frustrating season of Rick Porcello.  He spotted the Twins two runs on three hits in the first inning.  He then labored through some high-pitch-count innings, but kept them off the board through the fifth.  A two-run deficit shouldn’t be insurmountable, but the Red Sox offense continued their equally-frustrating trend of not scoring any runs for him.  Despite having runners on base in every inning, they couldn’t get that one big hit to bring them home.

Rick Porcello wasn't at his best, but he got no support from the offense.

Rick Porcello wasn't at his best, but he kept the Sox in the game and got no help from the offense.

Between innings, as the sun got ready to set, I went to the far back corner of the section, which is actually behind the foul pole, to take some pictures from that perspective.

The view of Lansdowne St. and the Cask 'n Flagon, looking toward Kenmore Square.

View of Lansdowne St. and the Cask 'n Flagon, looking toward Kenmore Square.

View of the ballpark from the furthest corner of the Pavilion level.

View of the ballpark from the furthest corner of the Pavilion level.

View of the Pru beyond the light tower.

Zooming in on the Pru beyond the light tower.

Porcello gave up a two-run homer in the top of the sixth, making it a 4-0 hole.  Finally, in the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox managed to load the bases on a single and two walks.  A big hit would have gotten them right back in it, but instead a groundout to short knocked in the only Red Sox run of the night.

Mookie Betts reached base three times (single, double, walk) but his teammates couldn't drive him in.

Mookie Betts reached base three times (single, double, walk) but his teammates couldn't drive him in.

The Green Monster seats late in the game.

The Green Monster seats late in the game.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Fernando Abad hangs out on the trash can.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Fernando Abad hangs out atop the trash can.

Matt Barnes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

Matt Barnes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

When the Twins switched from their left-handed starter to a righty reliever, Tzu-Wei Lin came in to pinch-hit for Deven Marrero.  I had seen Lin pick up his first Major League hit during his first start on Monday, and I was calling for his first RBI to come tonight.  Instead, he flied out to center – “his first career flyout,” I noted – and grounded out to second.  “That’s his first career 4-3,” I joked to my co-worker.  “We’re witnessing history tonight.”  Sadly, there would be no comeback tonight, historic or otherwise, and despite the unique vantage point, the game ended up with an all-too-familiar result.

The concourse behind the Pavilion level after dark.

The concourse behind the Pavilion level after dark.

June 28, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Cruising With Sale

Monday, June 26, 2017

Red Sox 4, Twins 1

After going to two games over the weekend, Monday found me headed back in to Fenway again. And this time it was Sale Day, only the third time this season I’ve been able to watch the ace at work.

The red lights on the scoreboard figured to get a lot of work tonight.

The red lights on the scoreboard, brighter after having been replaced earlier in the homestand, figured to get a lot of work tonight.

This was also the third of four games in my Sox Pax that had included Opening Day.  Unfortunately my view from that seat is less than ideal.

View from the

View from the (almost) back row of Section 32. Who needs to see home plate anyway?

At least I could see Sale!  (I flashed back to Opening Day of 2002, when I was so excited that the Red Sox opened at home because it meant I’d get to see Pedro Martinez, and then the only part of the field I couldn’t see from my seat was the mound.)  No one ever came and sat in the seat next to me, so I was able to move over and see everything.

It turns out you do need to see the plate when Sale is pitching, because not too many guys advance beyond it. Here's Miguel Sano walking back to the dugout after fanning to end the first.

It turns out you do need to see the plate when Sale is pitching, because not too many guys advance beyond it. Here's Miguel Sano walking back to the dugout dejectedly after fanning to end the first.

Unlike at the beginning of the year, when there was never any run support for Sale, the offense got to work early tonight.  Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia singled to lead off the first, and a run came in the back door on a double play.  Well, better then nothing!  Mitch Moreland followed with a home run into straightaway center, his third straight day with a homer in his first at-bat.  That put the Sox up 2-0, and Sale went on cruise control.

Moreland homerd for the third straight day.

Moreland homered for the third straight day.

Sale’s first baserunner came on a single in the second inning, but the runner, Jorge Polanco, was quickly erased when he tried to steal.  Chris Gimenez hit a solo homer in the third (which was promptly thrown back onto the field from the Monster seats), but there were only a handful of baserunners the rest of the way.

Pedey applies the tag as Sandy Leon cut down yet another baserunner.

Pedey applies the tag as Sandy Leon cuts down yet another baserunner.

Sale was his usual dominant self.

Sale was his usual dominant self.

Tzu-Wei Lin made his first start at third base, and picked up his first Major Lague hit with a single in the second inning.

Tzu-Wei Lin made his first career start at third base, and picked up his first Major League hit with a single in the second inning.

The only time the Twins had two runners on base at the same time was the seventh, when a single and a walk brought Gimenez to the plate with one out.  John Farrell opted to go to the ‘pen and bring in Heath Hembree.  Naturally I was nervous, even knowing that Gimenez had homered off Sale earlier, having seen the bullpen blow a couple of Sale gems in the past.  But Hembree induced an inning-ending double play, started by the sure-handed Tzu-Wei Lin at third.

Sale finished the day with 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, and 9 K.

Sale finished the day with 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K, and 1 standing ovation.

Pedey had 2 hits and an RBI.

Pedey had 2 hits and an RBI.

Pedroia’s second hit of the day drove in an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, and Moreland’s sac fly added another.  Matt Barnes struck out the side in order in the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel came on to close it out in the ninth.  All that was left to do now was dance, and since Mookie had had two hits and scored two runs, he did the honors.

June 26, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Summer Doldrums

Sunday, June 25, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Angels 4, Sox 2

In the excitement of Friday’s ceremony to retire Big Papi’s number, it would have been easy to miss the news that the Red Sox had claimed veteran righty Doug Fister off waivers.  He would be taking over the fifth starter role most recently occupied by Hector Velazquez, and eventually when Eduardo Rodriguez returned from the D.L., the plan was to move Fister to the bullpen.

Doug Fister made his first start with the Red Sox.

Doug Fister warms up before his first start with the Red Sox.

It took me a long time to find a parking spot at a meter because the street and side streets in my usual area were blocked off until noon for a road race earlier.  I did find one a few blocks down eventually, but by then it was 11:45.  It was hot, and my seat was in the bleachers where it’s always a lot hotter than the rest of the ballpark.  I waited in the shade until Fister came out to the bullpen to warm up, then went to my seat right before the start.  It was “Family Day” for the Red Sox, so the players’ kids all joined them on the field or in front of the dugout for the National Anthem.

A bunch of Red Sox kids: Dustin Pedroia's three sons, Mitch Moreland's son and daughter, Jackie Bradley's daughter (in his arms), plus Andrew Benintendi, and Deven Marrero.

A bunch of Red Sox kids: Dustin Pedroia's three sons, Mitch Moreland's son and daughter, Jackie Bradley's daughter (in his arms), plus "kids" Andrew Benintendi and Deven Marrero.

More Red Sox with their kids: Brock Holt, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval, and Heath Hembree with their children.

More Red Sox with their kids: Brock Holt, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval, and Heath Hembree with their children.

Fister opened the game with three quick outs.  In the second, he gave up two singles then induced a ground ball that could have been in inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.  But the call at first base was challenged and upheld, the inning continued, and a run had come in.  The next batter doubled in a second run, and the next batter drove in a third, before being thrown out trying to take second base on the throw home.

JBJ went 1-for-4 with a homer.

JBJ went 1-for-4 with a homer.

Solo home runs by Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. inched the Sox closer, but once again there wasn’t a lot of offense to be found in the home dugout.  For Fister’s part, he worked quickly and faced the minimum over the next three innings.  The only baserunners over that span came on two walks, but a double play erased one and Christian Vazquez threw out the other.  (Seriously, why do people still try to run on him?  Thanks for the out, though!)  The game had started at 1:35, and at the end of the fifth it was 2:39.

As my grandfather would have said, "Fister's not tall, he just has long legs."

As my grandfather would have said about the 6'8" Doug Fister, "He's not tall, he just has long legs."

Pedey hits a pop fly into left.

Pedey hit a pop fly into left to open the sixth.

Fister’s outing was solid.  He gave up three runs in six innings, and when the first two batters reached to open the seventh, Robby Scott and Heath Hembree came in to get him out of it.  The Sox were only down by one run, so the game was still within reach.

The outfielders discuss important outfielder things during a pitching change.

The outfielders discuss important outfielder things during a pitching change.

The infielders gather as Robby Scott throws his warmup pitches.

The infielders gather as Robby Scott throws his warmup pitches.

It was hot in the bleachers, and while not completely stifling, it still felt good when the occasional cloud floated by.  But eventually the little fluffy clouds were replaced by a big gray one.  The forecast had only called for a slight chance of a stray thunderstorm, so I figured we’d head for the grandstand if it did start to rain.

View from Section 43 as the clouds rolled in.

The view from Section 43 as the clouds rolled in.

After Sam Travis pinch-hit for Deven Marrero in the seventh (and struck out to end the inning), Tzu-Wei Lin came in to play third base in the top of the eighth.  Lin had been called up directly from Double-A when Josh Rutledge was placed on the concussion D.L., and he had made his debut as a pinch-runner the night before.  (I remembered seeing Lin play in Portland, exactly a year ago.)  This was his first appearance in the field, and the second batter of the inning hit a grounder that rebounded off Joe Kelly and rolled toward third.  Lin ran in and made a barehanded grab with enough time to get the runner out.

Tzu-Wei Lin made a nice first impression at third base.

Tzu-Wei Lin made a nice first impression at third base.

At the end of the eighth we felt a couple of raindrops, and seats had started to open up under the cover of the grandstand, so we moved over.  The Sox were still only down a run, and if they tied it up I wanted to be comfortable.  Alas, it was the Angels who added a run in the ninth, and the Sox went down quietly to end it.

June 25, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Thirty-Four

Friday, June 23, 2017 – Fenway Park, Pavilion Standing Room

Red Sox 9, Angels 4

I left work early on the day of Big Papi’s number retirement ceremony, and even with worse than usual traffic, I got there just as the gates were opening.  I grabbed an early bite to eat and went out to the grandstand to take a look at the field.  On the right field façade, a red curtain hung at the end of the retired numbers.

Shhh, no spoilers! Don't tell me what's behind the red curtain.

Shhh, no spoilers! Don't tell me what's behind the red curtain.

I visited a couple of friends who were there, but I couldn’t stay in the grandstand long.  I had Pavilion level standing room, and I needed to go stake out a good spot early on.  The seats in the Pavilion level are mostly the red seats, but the last row is stools with a counter in front, like on the Green Monster.  Behind this back row of seats is another counter, and that’s where the standing room is.  I loved having the counter to lean on and hold my scorecard, and the view was great… for the most part.  When people came and sat in the stools in front of us, their heads blocked home plate.  And when they all stood up for the opening ceremony and raised cameras over their heads, it was even harder to see.  There is a bar along the bottom of the counter that I was able to stand on to see, but I had to lean forward to keep my balance, and then stretch to hold my camera up.  Somehow, I wound up with great pictures of the ceremony, and then once the game started and everyone sat down, only minimal stretching was needed.

Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski welcome Big Papi to the retired numbers club.

Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski welcome Big Papi to the retired numbers club.

The ceremony began with a highlight package on the video board.  It was several minutes long, but it needed to be to get all of Papi’s career highlights in.  I’ve been to the number retirement ceremonies for Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, and Pedro Martinez, and at all of those they brought out all kinds of gifts – seats with their number on them and the like.  But Papi had received all those things on the day of his final regular season game last fall, so I wondered what they’d do.

Pedro introduces his compadre.

Pedro introduces his compadre.

What they did was perfect.  They started by introducing a couple of longtime former teammates, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Then came (almost) all the other living players whose numbers have been retired by the Red Sox – #8 Carl Yastrzemski, #14 Jim Rice, #45 Pedro Martinez, #26 Wade Boggs – plus the children of the late #4 Joe Cronin and #6 Johnny Pesky.  #27 Carlton Fisk was unable to attend, and 99-year-old #1 Bobby Doerr isn’t able to travel to Boston but was watching from his home in Orgeon.  There were tributes on the video board for #9 Ted Williams and #42 Jackie Robinson.  They also invited family members of the late Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twins’ great whose #34 Papi had chosen to wear as a tribute.  Then they unveiled the number 34 in its rightful place on the façade.  (So that’s what was behind the curtain.)

#34 now hangs with the other all-time greats.

#34 now hangs with the other all-time greats.

Pedro took the mic (he had a prepared speech, but the battery on his phone had died and he’s never been afraid of speaking off the cuff) and reminded us all that he was the one responsible for convincing the Red Sox to sign Ortiz as a free agent after he had been released by the Twins, calling it his “greatest gift to the city of Boston.”  Dustin Pedroia was next, and he got right to the point: “It’s not the home runs, it’s how you made us feel, and that’s love.  You’re not just a teammate or a friend, you’re family.”  Papi had to stop and wipe tears from his eyes before taking the podium himself to thank his teammates, coaches, family, and the fans.

No ceremony would be complete without a selfie of my two all-time favorite players.

No ceremony would be complete without a selfie of my two all-time favorite players.

"The little guy made me cry."

"The little guy made me cry."

The Dominican flag on the Green Monster represented Papi's homeland.

The Dominican flag on the Green Monster represented Papi's homeland.

Big Papi threw out the first pitch (caught by Tek) and then the National Anthems of both the Dominican Republic and the U.S. were sung.  The day was warm and humid, and some thunderstorms had come through west of Boston during my company’s outdoor barbeque in the early afternoon.  It was still cloudy at the start of the game, but there was no rain at night and up in the Pavilion level there was a decent breeze.

View from the Pavilion level standing room.

A full house at Fenway, as seen from the Pavilion level standing room.

I was relieved that Rick Porcello got quickly through the first (thanks in part to an outfield assist by Andrew Benintendi).  His recent starts had all followed one of two patterns – he left the ball up and got knocked around, or he pitched really well but got absolutely no offensive support.  So I was even happier about the reversal of trend when Angels’ pitcher Alex Meyer had a wild first inning.  He started by walking the first two batters.  Xander Bogaerts’ double drove in the first run, and then two wild pitches scored two more.  Even better, the Sox were able to build on the lead.  Hanley Ramirez belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Sandy Leon hit one out in the sixth.  This was more like it!  It seems like I’ve seen more than my fair share of dud games this year.  I know there’s always going to be some, and for the most part I try to view it as taking the good with the bad, but my timing has been exceptionally poor this year.  The team’s in first place, but I have a losing record at Fenway.  At this stage, a well-played game has been rarer for me than a Papi sighting, and it was very welcome indeed.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a walk, stole second, and came around to score on Bogaerts' double.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a walk, stole second, and came around to score on Bogaerts' double.

Andrew Benintendi walks to the plate in the bottom of the fourth. He doubled and scored on Hanley's homer.

Andrew Benintendi walks to the plate in the bottom of the fourth. He doubled and scored on Hanley's homer.

Xander Bogaerts kneels next to second base as the umps review his slide.  He ended up being ruled out because of his slide, but it looked legit to me in the replays I saw.

Xander Bogaerts kneels next to second base as the umps review his slide. He ended up being ruled out because of his slide, but it looked legit to me in the replays I saw.

I thought I was capturing a great diving catch by Andrew Benintendi in left - until I saw the ball bounce past him for a double. Oops!

I thought I was capturing a great diving catch by Andrew Benintendi in left - until I saw the ball bounce past him for a double. Oops!

fenway623

When the people on the stools in front of me left, I moved down and had a great view of the rest of the game.

Porcello started to tire a little in the seventh and gave up a few runs, but by then the Red Sox had built up a big lead.  Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, and Blaine Boyer finished it up.  Jackie Bradley Jr. ended the night with two hits, a walk, and two runs, so the outfielders’ “Win, Dance, Repeat” featured my favorite move, the ski jump.

JBJ celebrates the win with a ski jump.

JBJ celebrates the win with a ski jump.

June 23, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Sent Home Happy

Monday, June 12, 2017 – Section 33

Red Sox 6, Phillies 5, 11 innings

Knowing that I would be going to a Sunday night game and then heading back in the next night, I had taken Monday off from work.  Sunday’s game had gone past midnight, making it almost 2:00 by the time I got home, so I appreciated being able to sleep in, and I had plenty of time to go in early for Monday.  It was another 90-plus-degree day, 93 on the Fenway board when I went in the early entrance line, but it was a welcome relief from all the awful cold games I went to earlier in the year.  I watched batting practice from the shade, and my seat for the game was under cover in the grandstand.  My seat was actually a fun one, a single seat in a row by itself at the back of Section 33.  I had had it once before and remembered all the comments I got as people walked by before the game, like, “At least you know you’re not going to be sitting next to any jerks.”

It was nice on a hot day to have room to breathe. There was even space for my bag and a ledge where I could put my camera and beverage.

It was nice on a hot day to have room to breathe. There was even space for my bag and a ledge where I could put my camera and beverage.

The only problem with the seat was that it was on the “wrong” side on the aisle, meaning everyone who walked up and down was in my way, even if just briefly.  At least I knew I could stand up to see, if I had to, without blocking anyone myself.  While I was happy about the weather and my location, it didn’t take long to make me grumpy.  Rick Porcello had a really bad first inning, giving up four runs on five hits and throwing 31 pitches in the process.  Last night, Drew Pomeranz had given up three runs on 30 pitches in the first.  Here I was watching a rerun again!  (If I could find an all-Chris-Sale channel to watch instead, that would be nice.)

Hello, old friend!  Daniel Nava did quite a bit of damage against his old team, going 3-for-6 with a double and a run scored.

Hello, old friend! Daniel Nava did quite a bit of damage against his old team, going 3-for-6 with a double and a run scored, plus an outfield assist.

While the Red Sox stranded Mookie Betts in the first after his leadoff double, they got on the board in the second on Andrew Benintendi’s homer.  They added two more in the third, thanks in part to another Betts double.  In the fourth, a good throw by Benintendi nailed Nava at second trying to stretch his two-out hit to a double.  The play was challenged but the call was upheld (his foot came off the bag briefly while being tagged), and the inning was over.  In the bottom of the fourth, Mookie’s third double of the day drove in the tying run, and things were looking good again.

Hanley Ramirez congratulates Andrew Benintendi after his homer in the second inning.  Hanley thought it was so much fun that he homered himself later on.

Hanley Ramirez congratulates Andrew Benintendi after his homer in the second inning. Hanley thought it looked like so much fun that he homered himself later on.

With the ledge on the wall next to my seat to hold my camera still, I was able to try a time-lapse video which covers the bottom of the third, top of the fourth, and bottom of the fourth.  If you look closely, you’ll see the grounds crew raking down the infield (0:12), the umps checking replay (0:19), and the Red Sox’ game-tying run (0:31).  (Also see how annoying it can be when you’re on the “wrong” side of an aisle.  Sit down, people!)

The frustrating thing was that right after the Red Sox had tied the game up in the fourth, Porcello gave a run right back on a double and a single by the first two batters of the fifth.  That’s a real pet peeve of mine.  He did manage to get out of the inning without any further damage, and he completed the sixth, too, which at least helped spare the bullpen a bit.  Joe Kelly pitched a quick seventh, and Robby Scott handled the eighth.

Hanley bailed Porcello out with a game-tying homer in the eighth.

Hanley bailed Porcello out with a game-tying homer in the eighth.

In the eighth, Hanley Ramirez launched a huge home run over the Green Monster.  From where I was sitting, the overhang of the roof blocked my view of the area over the Wall, so while I saw the ball go up, I really didn’t see it come back down.  I’m not actually sure it has landed yet; in his next at-bat they told us it had been measured at 466 feet.  That tied the game up, and it felt winnable now.  By the top of the ninth, the crowd had thinned enough that I was able to move down to the loge boxes in front of Section 29.

My view for the end of the game.

My view for the end of the game.

Dustin Pedroia started his night 0-for-4, but he was just waiting for the right moment to make his mark on the game.

Dustin Pedroia started his night 0-for-4, but he was just waiting for the right moment to make his mark on the game.

Craig Kimbrel reached 101 mph on the radar gun as he pitched in the ninth.

Craig Kimbrel reached 101 mph on the radar gun as he pitched in the ninth.

Beni had a good night at the plate (3 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI) and in the field (an assist at second base) but his baserunning blunder ended the tenth.

Benintendi had a good night at the plate (3 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI) plus an outfield assist to nab Nava at second base. Nava would later return the favor and double Beni off second to end the tenth.

As soon as I moved down, Pablo Sandoval made a great diving play to snare a hot shot to third for the first out of the ninth.  (He made an error on a much more easily-hit ball later in the inning, but it wasn’t costly as Howie Kendrick was finally thrown out on what would have been his fourth stolen base of the game.)  In the bottom of the ninth, Pedroia almost won it with a hit high off the Wall, but it was just shy of going out, and he had to stop at first.  The Sox got the first two runners on in the tenth, but Mitch Moreland was erased on a fielder’s choice and Benintendi was doubled off second by Daniel Nava on a fly ball to left to end the threat.  Still, it felt to me like it was only a matter of time before they broke through.  Matt Barnes pitched the tenth and eleventh, striking out five in the process.

Pinch-runner Deven Marrero takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the eleventh.

Pinch-runner Deven Marrero takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the eleventh.

Finally, in the bottom of the eleventh, Sandoval led off with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Deven Marrero.  Sandy Leon sacrificed him along, but all that did was make the Phillies choose to intentionally walk the red hot Mookie, who already had four hits.  Up came Pedroia, and he lined a hit just past the second baseman into right field.  Marrero raced around and slid in safely with the winning run as the throw was dropped.  Pedey’s teammates chased him around the infield, and Hanley finally scooped him up in a big hug.  (I waited with my camera ready to catch the moment that his teammates dumped the Gatorade bucket on him and NESN’s Guerin Austin, as is the custom for post-game interviews, but they didn’t do it.  I guess the kids are scared to mess with with the venerable dirt dog!)  Here’s how the night ended:

Deven Marrero jumps up after scoring the winning run.

Deven Marrero jumps up after scoring the winning run.

Pedey didn't get the Gatorade bucket treatment, but Christian Vazquez did get him with a smaller bucket of water as the "first responders" chased him across the infield. And look at Xander Bogaerts preparing for takeoff!

Pedey didn't get the Gatorade bucket treatment, but Christian Vazquez did get him with a smaller bucket of water as the "first responders" chased him across the infield. And look at Xander Bogaerts preparing for takeoff!

Hanley scoops Pedey up into his arms (just beyond #18 Moreland) as the rest of the team catches up.

Hanley scoops Pedey up into his arms (just beyond #18 Moreland) as the rest of the team catches up.

It ended up another late night, but this one was totally worth it.

June 12, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Summer Rerun

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 36

Tigers 8, Red Sox 3

After all the cold games I went to all the way through May, it was a relief to have some hot summer weather finally.  But considering my seat was in the bleachers and the day was over 90 degrees, I was glad it was a night game.  I normally don’t like the 8:05 starts because of the potential to go later than public transportation can handle, but this is one time that I was happy to make that trade to avoid melting in the afternoon sun.  I drove in early to get a spot at a meter down the street, and went in the early entrance line to watch batting practice.  Until the regular gates open, we’re only allowed on the Green Monster or in the bleachers, so I chose to sit several rows back in Section 34, up against the wall, the only spot in those areas that was in the shade.  I wound up with the perfect souvenir when a Tigers batter hit a ball into my section, but admittedly only because I was the only one sitting that far back.

This ball landed a couple of rows behind me in batting practice.

This ball landed a couple of rows behind me in batting practice.

To be fair, this seat deserves the credit for making a nice catch.

To be fair, this seat deserves the credit for making a nice catch.

While the weather (88° at the start of the game, with a nice breeze and no humidity) was a pleasant departure from the past two months, the game action unfortunately was not.  Drew Pomeranz was pitching again, which meant I had missed another Chris Sale start the day before, and he wasn’t any better than the other times I had seen him.  He allowed a single to the first batter of the game and a homer to the second.  Then a walk, a wild pitch, and two more hits combined to drive in a third run before Pomeranz finally got out of the first inning on his 30th pitch.

Christian Vazquez was busy blocking pitches in the dirt and other wild offerings.

Christian Vazquez was kept busy blocking pitches in the dirt.

The Red Sox did get one run back in the first (although Hanley Ramirez ended the inning getting thrown out trying to stretch his RBI hit to a double) and another in the third.

Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI double in the third.

Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI double in the third.

Pomeranz, who always works slowly to start with, labored all night.  He gave up three straight singles to open the fourth, then managed to escape on two strikeouts and a fly ball with no runs scoring.  Again I was having flashbacks to the Daisuke Matsuzaka era, between the pace, the Houdini act, and the fact that he had thrown 82 pitches after four innings.  He started the fifth, but left with the bases loaded and one out in favor of Heath Hembree.  The bullpen has been a real strength for the Red Sox this year, but not on this night.  The first batter Hembree faced was Justin Upton, and he smacked a grand slam off (as I call it) the Bellhorn Pole.  It just got worse from there, as the Tigers batted around and added another run later in the inning.

Hold onto your hat - Hanley Ramirez adjusts his helmet after his seventh inning single.

Hold onto your hat - Hanley Ramirez adjusts his helmet after his seventh inning single.

It really felt like I had watched this exact game before.  On Mother’s Day, Pomeranz had started a very long, cold, miserable game that lasted over four and a half hours.  I was still traumatized by that game; I certainly didn’t need to watch the rerun.  “The only difference between this game and Mother’s Day,” I tweeted grumpily, “is 40 degrees.”

By the end of the sixth, enough seats were starting to open up that I made the move over to the grandstand on the first base side in Section 11, and the next inning I moved over behind home plate.  The game was so long and so bad that I started to play with the special effects on my camera to amuse myself.  Here are a couple:

Chris Young with only red.

Chris Young with only red.

Fenway Park in only green.

View from behind home plate with only green.

Fenway Park in "painting mode."

The ninth inning in "painting mode."

As I moved behind home plate, the clock struck midnight and the warning went up that the last T train leaves Kenmore at 12:25 (which is why I was glad I had parked on the street).

I had a good view in the Section 19 grandstand behind home plate.

I had a good view in the Section 19 grandstand behind home plate.

Dustin Pedroia watches his foul pop-up in the ninth.

Dustin Pedroia watches his foul pop-up in the ninth.

Down 8-3, the Red Sox actually mounted a bit of a rally in the ninth.  Two baserunners reached on walks, and with two outs Mitch Moreland hit a grounder to second.  The play was close at first base – in fact he looked safe – and the Red Sox challenged what would have been the final out of the game.  It turned out the call was overturned.  Moreland was safe, the bases were loaded, and the game wasn’t over yet.  That was nice, but it didn’t take long for Chris Young to line out to short and end the game for real, at just about 12:15.  As I walked back to my car, even the Citgo sign, which turns its lights off at midnight, had gone to sleep.

By the time the game ended, the Citgo sign was dark.

By the time the game ended, the Citgo sign was dark.

June 11, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments
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