3 Hours of My Life I’m Never Getting Back
Sunday, July 26, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 37
Orioles 6, Red Sox 2
After the All-Star break, things hadn’t gone well for the Red Sox. They won the first game, but then dropped the next five, falling out of first place in the process. They rebounded with wins over the Orioles on Friday and Saturday, and I was back on Sunday as they went for the sweep. We again arrived early enough to get a free parking spot on Comm. Ave. and went up on the Green Monster. The Red Sox didn’t take batting practice; we just saw the pitchers head out to right field to long-toss.
It was another hot afternoon in the upper bleachers. There were a few more clouds than the other July Sundays, but it was muggier, so it was every bit as uncomfortable. John Smoltz was matched up against Orioles rookie David Hernandez. Smoltz had struggled in his comeback from shoulder surgery, but he did have a good start in Baltimore a month ago before it was washed away by rain.
Today, facing the Orioles again, Smoltz had no such luck. He walked the first batter, who came around to score later in the inning. In the third, it got worse, as two singles and two doubles accounted for three more Oriole runs. They tacked on another run in the fourth, for a 5-0 lead. Further compounding the problem was the fact that the Red Sox offense was completely shut down by Hernandez. They didn’t even have a baserunner until Jacoby Ellsbury singled in the fourth. By then they were already down by 5, and even though he stole second, Ellsbury ended up stranded.
The Red Sox finally got on the board in the fifth. J.D. Drew and Adam LaRoche singled, and Jed Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly. Ellsbury and LaRoche both finished the day with two hits, but that was about it for the anemic Red Sox offense. The only other bright spot was when Dustin Pedroia’s double knocked in a run in the eighth.
We did get one other nice moment, when they showed a snippet of Jim Rice’s speech from his Hall of Fame induction, which was going on at the same time as the game, on the scoreboard between innings. We gave him a standing ovation for his productive career and for the long-deserved and well-justified honor of being enshrined among the game’s greats.
Other than that, the game was pretty frustrating. I had lived in Atlanta in the late 1990’s, and went to a lot of Braves games when Smoltz was in his prime, along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. I always liked watching Smoltz, and I was glad when the Red Sox decided to take a chance on him in the off-season. I knew he was rehabbing, but he had come back from injuries before and had a long, productive career. I understood his Cy Young days were behind him, but I still hoped the end of his career would resemble Curt Schilling’s or even David Wells’. Because of that I was patient through his first few starts, figuring we’d have to give him a little time to get back to full strength. But he had been back for a month now, and was no closer to being a serviceable number 5 starter than any of our other options. On this afternoon I reached the point where I didn’t want to waste any more time on this experiment. We were battling to climb back on top in the division, and we couldn’t afford to lose game after game while he tried to right himself. If we were going to go with someone who might be expected to struggle from time to time, it should be with one of our own prospects trying to gain experience rather than a washed up veteran who didn’t know when to hang ‘em up.
The afternoon felt like a total waste, but once I got home, I felt better after I cooled off, took a shower, and looked up the Hall of Fame proceedings online. Jim’s speech was well done, and it gave me reason to smile again.
I’ll leave you with the only good thing to come out of this day – Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame induction speech, from Boston.com: