Upon Further Review
Sunday, May 24, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 37
Red Sox 12, Mets 5
The Red Sox finished up a sweep of the Blue Jays, but then dropped the first two games to the Mets. The second game was particularly frustrating. Josh Beckett had pitched 8 strong innings and left with a 2-1 lead. Jonathan Papelbon had two outs and a runner on when he allowed Omir Santos to hit one off the top of the Green Monster. It was first ruled a double, but the umpires ended up consulting instant replay and changing the call to a home run. It was the first time instant replay was used at Fenway Park since it was instituted last August, and even though the call was technically correct, it was a painful end to the game.
I got up early on Sunday and used my Red Sox Nation card to go up on the Green Monster for batting practice. Unfortunately, the Sox chose not to take B.P. (the Mets did, later on) but at least it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Daisuke Matsuzaka was long-tossing in the outfield, and Julio Lugo was taking grounders at short. When he was done, Lugo came over and tossed several baseballs up to the fans. When the gates opened and we had to leave the Monster, the pitchers came out to throw in right field, so I went over there and took some good close-up photos.
As it got close to gametime, we made the trek up to our upper bleacher seats. We were under the Jumbo-Tron scoreboard, at the top of an aisle right up against the back wall. (The aisle on that side of the section only goes up as far as row 31, but there are 40 rows. With my seat on the end, I had to help several late-comers figure out where their seats were and how to get there. At least those seats are only $12… although I would have happily paid my usual $26 for a closer seat if they hadn’t all been grabbed up by scalpers who sold them to Mets fans – but that’s a rant for another day.) As Tim Wakefield put the first two batters on and then got out of it with a double play and a strikeout, a large dark cloud moved overhead. “This is not going to be good,” I said. I’ve sat that far back before, and I know it can take 15 to 20 minutes to get down from the top rows if it starts raining. I put away my camera and dug out my jacket. We saw flashes of lightning in the distance and heard rumbles of thunder.
Sure enough, in the bottom of the first, the rain started. At first it was light enough that the scoreboard blocked most of it from us, but as Jacoby Ellsbury flied out, it got heavier. As Dustin Pedroia batted, it got really heavy. I later read that he said he could hear hail pinging off his batting helmet. He took ball four, and Big Papi was announced. That’s when the umps finally signaled for the tarps, and the game went into a rain delay. We grabbed our stuff, but we weren’t able to go anywhere until the 30 rows of people below us had emptied out. It was about 15 minutes of standing there in the giant super-soaking raindrops that were now pouring off the side of the scoreboard onto us, before we finally got to the bottom. Then in the concourse underneath it was pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone standing around. Normally in a rain delay I like to go over to the right field grandstand standing room area, where it’s under cover but we can at least see the field and know what’s going on. But there was no way we’d be able to squeeze through the mob of people to get all the way over there. We eventually made it to the back near the Gate C turnstiles, and I went into the ladies’ room to grab some paper towels to wipe off the seats. We looked out onto Lansdowne Street and saw that not only had the rain stopped, but the sun was actually out. There are a few monitors downstairs that were playing a weekly Red Sox highlights show. A couple of minutes later, when I looked at the monitor again, it looked like Big Papi was batting, but I thought it was highlights of his home run from a few days earlier. Since the rain had stopped and people were starting to go back out to their seats, we headed up too, only to find that the game had resumed. Papi and Kevin Youkilis both struck out as we climbed back up to our seats.
The sun was out for the rest of the game, and I wound up with a tan. I hung my jacket on the end of my seat, and it dried out before the end of the game. Some of the guys below us in the section hung their shirts up on the back wall like a clothesline to dry them out.
Wake gave up a solo shot in the second, but Mike Lowell gave the Sox the lead in the bottom of the inning with a 3-run blast into the Monster seats. Wake had been one of the most solid starters for the Red Sox all year, but this time he couldn’t hold the lead. The Mets got three runs in the third and tacked on another in the fourth to go up 5-3.
Kevin Youkilis led off the bottom of the fifth, and he launched a high fly ball down the third base line. I could see from my seat that it was high enough to clear the Wall, but there was no way to tell from my angle whether it was fair or foul. A big cheer went up, though, so I assumed it was a homer, until I saw that Youk was stopped as he reached second base. The ump had called it foul, and Terry Francona came out to argue. We all yelled, “Check the replay!” After last night’s use of instant replay, they owed it to us to at least check on this one. The umps conferred for a minute, then walked together across the field to the Red Sox dugout. Because it had just happened the night before, we all knew exactly what was going on. The replay room is down a hallway behind the dugout, and when they disappeared an announcement was made: “Ladies and gentlemen, the umpires are reviewing the play.” It took about five minutes, and we stayed standing while we waited for the decision. Finally, the umps re-emerged, and crew chief Joe West signaled foul. Boo! Youk had to go back to the plate, and ended up flying out to right. I looked at the play when I got home, and apparently there was no good angle to tell whether the ball was fair or foul when it actually passed the pole, so the call on the field stood.
The Sox did manage to make it a productive inning. George Kottaras’s second double of the day knocked in the fourth Sox run and moved Lowell to third. Nick Green hit a single into right, rounded first, and kept a rundown going long enough for both Lowell and Kottaras to score. That gave the Sox a 6-5 lead, and there was no stopping them after that. Jason Bay and J.D. Drew both drove in runs in the sixth, and Pedroia added another in the seventh.
There were two men on when Youk came to the plate with two outs in the seventh. This time he launched one deep toward left-center. It was definitely fair – no replay needed – and it was over everything. From my seat up against the wall, I could see out onto Lansdowne St. as a group of passersby ran over to the ditch in front of the parking garage to chase the ball. Keeping one eye on Bay’s at-bat (he grounded out to third), I watched as they retrieved the ball, posed for a couple of pictures, then continued walking down the street.
Youk’s no-doubter put the Sox ahead 12-5 and was the perfect way to cap off an exciting game.