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No Cinch to Clinch

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 38

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7

After getting home from Monday’s rainy game completely soaked, and then staying up late to check on the score of the Rangers/Angels game, I woke up Tuesday morning and went to work.  I was going back to Fenway on Wednesday night, but now the magic number for clinching the Wild Card was down to 1, meaning that if the Red Sox won (or Rangers lost) on Tuesday, we’d be in.  I didn’t want them to lose on Tuesday just so I could see it, but I was still a little bummed that I’d probably end up missing it.  That’s when I decided I had to be at the game that night.  I know the Red Sox hold some tickets back to be used as day-of-game sales, and I had had good luck waiting in the line before.  I’ve also heard that the Red Sox sometimes put extra tickets onsale online a day or two in advance.  So at lunch I vowed that if there were still tickets available when I got back to my desk, I was going to go to the game.  Sure enough, there were still a handful of singles available in a couple of different seating categories.  I grabbed a bleacher seat – face value, of course, through the team’s site – at 1:30 in the afternoon!  I told my co-workers, “I have to.  I’m a diehard.  It’s what we do.”

(Did I worry, though, that once I bought the ticket and went through all the effort of getting in there, that would jinx them and they wouldn’t end up winning?  Maybe for a minute, but then I remembered the story of Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS.  I lived in Atlanta at the time, but my brother had managed to get tickets.  I had no vacation days left, but I was able to cash in my Thanksgiving holidays to get the time off, and find a flight to Boston.  The problem was that we had tickets to Game 4, and the Red Sox dropped the first two games to the Indians.  If they lost Game 3, the series would be over, and I wouldn’t get a chance to go.  My flight to Boston left on the morning of Game 3, so when I stepped on the plane, I had no idea if I’d really get to go to a game or if I was just wasting my time and money.  But I kept the faith, and it all worked out.  The Red Sox won Game 3, then trounced the Indians 23-7 with me there in Game 4.  That’s still my favorite game I’ve ever been to, and it made me mot worry about my spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Fenway and hopefully see them clinch tonight.)

My stuff had finally dried out from the night before, and I jumped in the car with a big grin on my face.  When I called my parents to tell them I was going, they told me my aunt was going to be at the game, and what section and row to look for her in.  I met up with her and her friend and chatted with them until right before the game started.  Then I headed out to my bleacher seat, which was a nice one in row 5 in center field.  It was close to the ramp that leads down to the concourse, so if it rained again, at least I wouldn’t get stuck in it this time.

Clay Buchholz pitches to Kevin Millar.

Clay Buchholz pitches to Kevin Millar.

Yes, everything was perfect… and then the game started.  Clay Buchholz gave up a home run on the very first pitch of the game.  (Ugh, not again!  At least Michael Bowden had waited until the second batter of last night’s game before serving one up.)  Two batters later, Adam Lind hit a 2-run shot, and by the time the inning was over, the Blue Jays had batted around and taken a 4-0 lead.  The Red Sox got solo runs in the first and second, but the Jays hit more homers in the second and third, extending their lead.  In the fifth, Lind hit his second homer of the day, and in the seventh, his third home run clanged off Pesky’s Pole.  (That’s the first time I’ve witnessed a 3-homer game, but it’s not exactly the way I wanted to see one.)

At the end of the seventh, Toronto led 8-2, but I was still hoping they could come back.  A lot of people started to bail, so I figured I’d be able to get a seat close to my aunt over in the grandstand.  I headed over to Section 13, and it turns out the guy next to her had just left, so I was able to watch the rest of the game with them.  And that’s just when the game started to get good.

In the late innings, I got a good view from Section 13.

In the late innings, I got a good view from Section 13.

In the bottom of the eighth, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia singled.  Victor Martinez grounded into a double play, but then Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz doubled, driving in two runs.  After Jason Bay walked, J.D. Drew launched a 3-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen, right in front of the section I had been sitting in earlier.  That made the score 8-7, and put the Sox on the verge of the epic comeback I had been rooting for over the past two days.  Casey Kotchman popped up to end the inning, but I was sure they were going to come all the way back.

It's the night the Red Sox will end up clinching, and Paps is still wearing pants.

It's the night the Red Sox will end up clinching, and Paps still has his pants on.

Jonathan Papelbon came on for the ninth.  He got two quick outs but then hit Adam Lind.  Lind stayed in the game after getting checked out by the trainers, and Paps got the third out quickly too.   In the bottom of the ninth, Ellsbury singled with one out, and promptly stole second.  Pedroia lofted one out toward the center field triangle that I thought was going out, but Vernon Wells ended up tracking it down for the second out.  Victor walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Joey Gathright.  The stage was set, with the two speediest guys on base, and one of the best clutch hitters on the team, Youkilis, at the plate.  We chanted “Yooooouuuuuk” and “Let’s go Red Sox” and “You-you-you-you” as he worked a 3-2 count.  But then… called strike three.  There was a stunned silence for a few seconds as it sunk in, but that was it.  No rally; no clinching; no pants-less, goggle-wearing, champagne-soaked players celebrating.

Actually, for me there was still hope.  If the Rangers won, the magic number would stay at 1, and I’d have another chance to see them try again tomorrow.  But when I got back to my car, I heard that the Angels led 4-2, and after I got home the 5-2 Texas loss went final, giving the Wild Card to the Red Sox.  It was after 1 am, and even the NESN cameras weren’t allowed in the clubhouse, so we didn’t get any visuals.  Instead, I’ll have to close with a picture I took last October on the night the Red Sox beat the Angels in Game 4 to clinch the Division Series:

We didn't get to see the Red Sox clinch this year, but here's what it might have looked like.  This is Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, and their teammates celebrating their Division Series win over the Angels in 2008.

We didn't get to see the Red Sox clinch this year, but here's what it might have looked like. This is Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, and their teammates celebrating their Division Series win over the Angels in 2008.

While we didn’t get to see any pictures, there were some good quotes on the celebration the next morning:

“He’s probably in a thong right now with goggles and drinking Budweiser,” Lowell said, of Papelbon’s condition at that point in the evening.

“I think it was maybe a little more subdued than walking right off the field, but at the same time, when you’ve got Pap on your team, it definitely isn’t boring,” Bay said.

On second thought, I guess there are some things that are best left to the imagination!

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