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A Devil of a Game

Thursday, September 17, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Angels 4, Red Sox 3

By the time I got to Fenway for my next game, the Red Sox were riding a 7-game winning streak, including a dramatic come-from-behind win the night before which ended on Alex Gonzalez’s walk-off single.  During that time, they had opened up a 6.5-game lead over Texas for the wild card, so it looked promising for making the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.  But just as important to me was trying to win the division, which was still completely possible.  The Yankees had a 6.5-game lead, but we still had a 3-game head-to-head series at the end of the month, so we just needed to creep a little closer before then.  Winning the East is of course a matter of pride, but it’s more than that.  It would also enable the Red Sox to match up with the Central division winners (likely the Tigers) instead of the Angels from the West.  Then the Angels would get the Yankees, whom they always play well against, and we’d have home field advantage.  If we settled for the wild card instead, we’d have to open on the road in Anaheim.  So I really wanted them to continue their winning ways by finishing off a sweep of the Angels now.

I took the day off from work and went in early to get in the Red Sox Nation line.  (We were so early that some of the parking lots weren’t open for game parking yet, still taking monthly permit holders only.)  Up on the Green Monster, we watched batting practice.  With all the September call-ups, there was plenty of action, as we tried to figure out who everyone was.  We did notice Kevin Youkilis, who had missed the past couple of games with back spasms, in the dugout wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of his practice uniform, so we knew he wouldn’t be starting tonight.  After the first half-hour, when the gates officially open, we have to come down from the Monster.  We went around behind home plate as the last group of Red Sox batters took their turns at the plate.  I had fun getting some good photos of last night’s hero:

Alex Gonzalez is all smiles the day after his clutch hit won the game for the Red Sox.

Alex Gonzalez is all smiles the day after his clutch hit won the game for the Red Sox.

I also saw ESPN’s Peter Gammons chatting with a couple of players.  A few days later, I found the article he was working on.

Victor Martinez chat with Peter Gammons.

Victor Martinez chats with Peter Gammons.

I have a Tenth Man Plan, my 10-game ticket package which renews every year.  This winter, I had also bought one of the (one-year-only) 4-game Sox Pax because it included Opening Day.  Tonight’s game was included in both packages, so I gave my parents the Tenth Man seats, while I would sit 35 rows back and two sections over in the Sox Pax seats.  The three seats my friends and I had for the Sox Pax were scattered across a couple of rows, so we wouldn’t be together anyway, and the guy who sits next to me in the Tenth Man seats usually shows up an hour late, so I figured I’d start off in the good seats next to my parents and then move back when the section filled in.  As luck would have it, the guy next to me arrived in the bottom of the first, but there were some other empty seats in the row that no one ever came and sat in, and I was able to switch with some girls so that I ended up sitting next to my parents in the good seats for the whole game.

The sun sets over the Fenway facade before the game.

The sun sets over the Fenway façade before the game.

Josh Beckett was on the mound for the Red Sox, pitching against Ervin Santana, and the game was scoreless through the first two innings.  Howie Kendrick led off the third with a home run, giving the Angels a 1-0 lead.  In the fourth, Jacoby Ellsbury launched a homer of his own to tie the game.  Then after Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single, Jason Bay blasted a 2-run shot to give the Sox a 3-1 lead.

Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury patrol the outfield after they both homered.

Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury patrol the outfield after they both homered.

The Angels crept a little closer with a run on back-to-back doubles in the fifth.  At the end of the fifth, when they pick 10 Red Sox Nation members to welcome on the scoreboard, I saw my name again, which was cool.  Trouble came in the seventh, when the Angels had runners at second and third with two outs.  Beckett struck out Chone Figgins, but the ball got away from Jason Varitek, and Figgins reached base as the tying run scored.  It was the second straight night that a ball had gotten past Tek, but when I saw that this one was a wild pitch as opposed to a passed ball, I gave him a break since it wasn’t technically his fault, although that didn’t make it any less costly.  Beckett ended up going eight innings, and left with the game tied, 3-3.  I kept the faith, holding out for another late-game rally like the night before.

Billy Wagner came on for the ninth, and he walked the first batter.  A sacrifice moved the runner to second, and he scored on a single to give the Angels a 4-3 lead.  It was on to the bottom of the ninth, but J-Bay and Big Papi both struck out to open the inning, leaving the game up to the bottom of the order.  No problem, they just needed to get some baserunners on and get Alex Gonzalez to the plate.  Mike Lowell delivered a single and Joey Gathright pinch-ran.  I really hoped Youk would get a chance to hit, but when J.D. Drew was called back in favor of Rocco Baldelli, I figured that meant that Youk wasn’t available at all.  Baldelli ended up flying out to end the game, wasting a perfect chance to pick up some ground in the wild card and the division races with both opponents idle.  (We found out later that if Rocco had reached, Youk would have pinch-hit for Tek.  I just wish he had gotten a chance before it had become too late.)

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