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Getting Back to Normal

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 36

Red Sox 8, Tigers 2

The two weeks since my last game were downright depressing for the Red Sox. They finished the Oakland series with a win and swept three from Baltimore, but then came six straight losses at the hands of the Rays and Yankees, including two demoralizing extra-inning defeats and a pair of consecutive shutouts. Along the way, the roster was in flux due to injuries, trades, and ineffectiveness. Josh Reddick, Victor Martinez, Casey Kotchman, Chris Woodward, Junichi Tazawa, and Fernando Cabrera were in; Adam LaRoche, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie, George Kottaras, and Rocco Baldelli were out; and Billy Traber and Enrique Gonzalez had come and gone in that time. Over it all hung the steroid accusations against David Ortiz that left me disillusioned about everything I love about this game. After nine days of silence, Papi apologized to his fans and teammates, and the players’ union raised questions about the validity of the 2003 test he allegedly failed and the possibility of false positives. That was enough to give me the “reasonable doubt” I needed to believe in the integrity of the game again.

The four-game sweep by the Yankees left me sleepless on Sunday night. (I even had a touch of what Tito would call “intestinal turmoil.”) But when the Sox returned home and beat the Tigers on Monday and Tuesday, I started to feel like myself again. By Wednesday, it had been two long, painful weeks since my last game, but it felt like it had been a lot longer. I couldn’t wait to finally see a good, fun game again. I took the day off from work, and went in early to watch batting practice from the Green Monster.

Junichi Tazawa during batting practice. Earlier in the week he became the sixth player to make his Major League debut with the Red Sox this year, as well as being the fourth Japanese pitcher on the Sox this season.

Junichi Tazawa looks on during batting practice. Earlier in the week, he became the sixth player to make his Major League debut with the Red Sox this year. He's also the fourth Japanese pitcher to play for the Sox this season.

Fernando Cabrera stretches during batting practice. He was the latest call-up for the Sox.

Fernando Cabrera stretches during batting practice. He was the latest call-up for the Sox.

Takashi Saito jokes around with a Japanese fan during batting practice, while Chris Woodward and George Kottaras look on in amusement.

Takashi Saito jokes around with a Japanese fan during batting practice, while Chris Woodward and George Kottaras look on in amusement.

Josh Beckett was on the mound, which was a good start toward curing any ills. He blew the Tigers away in the first, needing only 12 pitches and striking out two. I had been tipped off by my parents, who were watching the pre-game show at home, that Jerry Remy was back at Fenway Park tonight and would be visiting the broadcast booth during the second inning. The beloved announcer had missed most of the season as he recovered from infections and depression following cancer treatments over the off-season. Now he was taking a big step toward returning, and we noticed him joining Dennis Eckersley and Don Orsillo in the booth during the top of the second.

The Rem-Dawg is welcomed back as he joins Eck and D.O. in the booth.

The Rem-Dawg is welcomed back as he joins Eck and D.O. in the booth.

After Beckett dispatched the Tigers in order in the second, the Jumbo-Tron welcomed back Remy between innings. We gave him a warm, enthusiastic standing ovation through the entire duration of the break. When we finally noticed that the game was starting back up again, we sat down, but Mike Lowell launched the first pitch he saw over The Wall for a home run, and we were right back up on our feet again. He had entered as a pinch-runner the night before after Kevin Youkilis was ejected, and went on to homer twice in that game. Now he had gone deep for the second straight night, and he went on to have two other hits later in the game.

Lowell wasn’t the only Red Sox batter who was heating up. Jason Bay smacked a two-run homer in the third. He added two doubles and two walks for a perfect night at the plate. In the fifth, the Sox batted around, scoring 5 more runs.

Speaking of perfect, Beckett didn’t allow a baserunner through the first four innings. A solo homer in the fifth broke up the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout, but by then the Sox were in the lead, and they never looked back. Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez finished it off, and as “Dirty Water” played, I finally felt better.

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