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Sunny Day, Sweepin’ the Birds Away

Sunday, April 19, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 2, Orioles 1

It’s safe to say the Red Sox weren’t off to a good start. After opening at home and then completing their first road trip, their record stood at 3-6. It was as if the part of the Green Monster scoreboard that held the standings had been installed upside-down; the Blue Jays and Orioles were out in front, with the Yankees, Rays, and last-place Red Sox at the bottom. But when they returned home, they overcame a 7-0 deficit to win Friday night’s game, then picked up another victory Saturday. So by the time I came back for Sunday’s game, they had a chance to get back to .500.

I showed up early again, looking to use my Red Sox Nation card to go up on the Green Monster during batting practice. The last time I had tried, it ended up being a day with no B.P., so I hoped for better luck this time. When they let us in, the field was all set up for practice, but no one was hitting yet. A coach was hitting grounders to Chris Carter at first base, Brad Penny was throwing in the bullpen, and the rest of the pitchers were long-tossing in right field.

What I found amusing was at the end of the long-toss session, when Justin Masterson squatted down like a catcher as Manny Delcarmen threw to him next to Pesky’s Pole. Wasn’t there someone else who could do catcher duty instead of tomorrow’s starting pitcher? After a few tosses, they switched positions, with Masterson throwing and Delcarmen catching. Finally bullpen catcher Mani Martinez arrived on the scene, but he just stood in as a batter, holding his glove up and swinging it as if it were a bat. It looked like a couple of kids playing in the back yard – all they were missing was a lawn chair for first base, a clothesline pole for second base, and an old tree stump for third.

Masterson, Delcarmen, and Mani Martinez play catch

Masterson, Delcarmen, and Mani Martinez play catch.

I always find behind-the-scenes stuff cool, so it was interesting to watch as the tarp was stretched over the seats in Sections 34 and 35 so that hitters have a dark “batter’s eye” background during day games.

Covering up the seats in center field.

Covering up the seats in center field.

We got a wave from Jonathan Papelbon as he, Delcarmen, and Javier Lopez headed out to center field to shag flies. A couple of hitters had come out of the dugout, and batting practice was about to start. But it was also time for us to leave the Green Monster, since the gates had just opened. (It turns out that today the Orioles had chosen not to take B.P., so the Red Sox were batting in the later time slot.) I stopped to use the ladies’ room on the Monster level, behind the Coca-Cola area seats in the upper deck in left field. Walking back to the stairway that leads down to the rest of the park, I got a unique view of Lansdowne St.:

A new perspective of Lansdowne St.

A new perspective of Lansdowne St.

I again took advantage of the half-price Family Hour food and a free soda from the Designated Driver booth, and went down next to the Red Sox dugout to watch batting practice. I heard a person back near me calling out to someone closer down near the field, “Hey, Can! Can!” I looked where he was pointing, and there was “Oil Can” Boyd, who waved back to the guy. The Can was walking through the stands, even climbing over the blue railings between box seat sections, before going out onto the field, where he met up with Tito, Big Papi, Mike Lowell, and some very lucky kids.

Dennis and David - make that Oil Can and Big Papi - meet some lucky kids.

Dennis and David share a laugh.

Before the game, simultaneous ceremonial first pitches were thrown by a woman who had raised money for the Boys and Girls Club by running marathons, along with Elmo from Sesame Street.  After the lineups and the National Anthem, another ceremonial “first” pitch (did they think we’d already forgotten the others?) was announced. As soon as they said it was a member of the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox who had played in Boston for six years, I knew it was Mike Timlin. Although he has retired from baseball, his family was in town for the weekend because his wife was running in the Boston Marathon the following day. (At least they didn’t send him out there with Elmo!) He got a standing ovation, threw a strike to Tim Wakefield, and then was greeted warmly by everyone in the dugout.

Big Papi welcomes back Mike Timlin

Big Papi welcomes back Mike Timlin.

During the game, they showed Timlin on the Jumbo-Tron, and he was sitting in the Green Monster seats. It had to be weird for him sitting in the stands like a fan watching a game in a place where he played for so long. (I couldn’t help but think, “Now you know how we feel!”)

Timlin watches the game from the Green Monster.

Timlin watches the game from the Green Monster.

Jon Lester had struggled in his first two starts of the year, but today the Real Jon Lester returned. (He, too, is welcome at Fenway any time!) Lester shut out the Orioles for seven innings, giving up only four hits and two walks, and striking out nine. At the plate, Mike Lowell and Dustin Pedroia drove in runs to give the Sox a 2-0 lead.

(We also got to see Baltimore’s centerfielder Felix Pie. I know his last name is pronounced “Pee-AY” but my friend and I had fun joking about what he should someday name his children. She pointed out that actress Gwyneth Paltrow had a daughter named Apple, which would work well. My personal choices were Whoopi for a girl or Mincemeat for a boy.)

Lester had thrown 96 pitches after six innings, so I figured he was done for the day. Especially since he had had two shaky starts, I didn’t think they’d want to risk a good outing today by having him continue, but he did come out for the seventh. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable after having pitched the previous two nights. Lester survived a leadoff single in the seventh, and Ramon Ramirez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. When Takashi Saito came out for the ninth, it dawned on me that Paps had pitched a lot lately. (I’m glad I hadn’t realized it earlier, because I really would have been sweating in the seventh and eighth!)

Saito picked up the save.

Saito picked up the save.

Saito ended up making it interesting, when a couple of singles and a groundout brought the Orioles within a run, but he closed it out with a K. The Red Sox win evened their record at 6-6, which moved them up in the standings. Now that they didn’t have a losing record, and with the starting pitching and timely hitting finally coming around, it was finally starting to feel like baseball season again.

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