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Green Means Go

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 7, Twins 3

The Twins were in town for a two-game series – their only trip to the Fens all year. Heavy rains on Tuesday night forced a postponement of the first game to Wednesday afternoon, but the weather was no better the next day. The Red Sox won the matinee, 10-1, with the game called after a rain delay in the bottom of the seventh. At work, I followed along online, both the game and the hourly forecast. It was supposed to start raining steadily again around 7 or 8, and then get heavier as the night went on. It didn’t look good at all for the night game, and I really wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of having to rearrange my schedule to go on Thursday afternoon if it got rained out. Traffic was bad and the rain was heavy as I arrived at the T station. When I got to Kenmore Square, the rain had lightened, and in the ballpark, the tarp looked like it had just been taken off the infield while the grounds crew raked the dirt. Good sign! I grabbed a slice of pizza and a soda and sat undercover in the grandstand to eat. Brad Penny and Jason Varitek came out to long-toss in front of the bullpen, which was a very good sign. But then the rain got heavier, and the tarp was dragged back into the infield. Penny, Tek, and John Farrell walked back into the dugout. That was definitely a very bad sign.

Tarp panorama. For a while I thought this was the only picture I'd have to show.

Tarp panorama. For a while I thought this was the only picture I'd have to show.

Finally, around 7:30, they announced that the game would start at 7:55, so my friend and I headed around to our seats. We were in Section 34, the little corner nestled next to the center field cameras. I love sitting in that section, because it’s close, it’s got a great view of the strike zone, and there aren’t a lot of people getting up and down in front of me the whole game. That was another reason I was worried about the game being rained out. If it was made up during the day, this is one of the sections that gets covered up. We’d most likely get reseated, and who knows where we’d end up. But as we wiped off our seats, the rain had stopped, and we were ready just in time for the ceremonial first pitch. I had read online that Dave Roberts would be doing the honors for Tuesday’s game, so when that was rained out I hoped maybe I’d get the chance to see him on Wednesday. As luck would have it, he was unavailable for the afternoon game (probably eating a free lunch, which he can do any time he wants in this city) and here he was for the night game.

The man who changed my life. Dave Roberts, you complete me. 'Nuff Ced.

The man who changed my life. Dave Roberts, you complete me. 'Nuff Ced.

The Man of Steal, who forever changed Red Sox history almost five years ago, threw to Terry Francona, who was celebrating his 50th birthday and whose own personal history would likely be quite different if Joe West had called Roberts out.

The Sox took the field just before 8:00, wearing the green uniforms they usually don only in Spring Training on St. Patrick’s Day. It was Earth Day, and they were “going green” for the night. (I can’t help but think that it might have been more meaningful if they had skipped the gimmicky uniforms and instead had people pick up the trash under their seats between innings.) But it was more fun to pretend that it was in honor of shortstop Nick Green, who had hit his first major league homer since 2006 in the first game.

Nick "Wearing O' The" Green. He must have been inspired by the uniforms and "Go Green" signs, because he hit two doubles that night.

Nick "Wearing O' The" Green. He must have been inspired by the uniforms and "Go Green" signs, because he hit two doubles that night.

Penny pitched well – nowhere near the disastrous outing he had his last time out, when he gave up seven runs in the second before the Sox came back to win. No comeback was necessary tonight, as the Sox got on the board early and kept it that way. With Rocco Baldelli on the D.L. after tweaking his hamstring, Jeff Bailey had been called up from Triple A. Mike Lowell got the game off, with Kevin Youkilis sliding over to third and Bailey in at first. Bailey had had cameos with the Sox in 2007 and ‘08, and had won the International League M.V.P. while playing in Pawtucket last season. He didn’t wait long to make an impression in 2009, slamming a Francisco Liriano offering over the Green Monster for a 3-run homer in his first at-bat. The next time up, his stats looked pretty nice:

Jeff Bailey's stats after a homer and a walk in his first two plate appearances.

Jeff Bailey's stats after a homer and a walk in his first two plate appearances.

Big Papi padded the lead with an opposite-field two-run double in the third. After Penny gave up a couple of runs in the fourth, the Sox got them right back in the bottom of the inning. Bailey walked, Green hit a double, and then Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia drove them in.

It ended up being a nice night for baseball after all.

It ended up being a nice night for baseball after all.

The bullpen continued their dominance, with Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon all pitching hitless innings. The only baserunner in that span was Jose Morales, whom Ramirez hit with a pitch. But he was quickly erased when the next batter lined out to second and Pedroia threw to first to double Morales off and end the inning. It was even cooler because Pedroia had already made the exact same play on a liner by Brendan Harris to double off Delmon Young and end the third.

Hideki Okajima, left-handed reliever and contortionist extraordinaire, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

Hideki Okajima, left-handed reliever and contortionist extraordinaire, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

Once Papelbon threw his final pitch and the resulting popup landed safely in Youk’s glove for the final out, we headed for the exits as “Dirty Water” played. At that moment, as we waited in the line of fans to get down out of the stands, we felt the first raindrops since before the game had started. It was perfect timing! It rained all the way back to our cars and was heavy on the drive home, but they had gotten the game in – and swept the doubleheader in the process.

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