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Signs of Spring

Sunday, April 17, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1

After Wednesday’s game was rained out, the Red Sox had a scheduled off-day Thursday, and then Friday they continued their practice of losing every game I hadn’t gone to.  Somehow, they won Saturday’s game without me – which is good because I only have 23 games this year – and Sunday found me driving in to Boston in a good mood.  The morning was sunny and a little warmer, and I found a parking spot at a meter a block down the street from Kenmore Square.  Because I was so early, I went in with the Red Sox Nation line at 11:00 rather than waiting till 11:30 to go in Gate A and get up close for the end of batting practice like I had vowed to do at my last game.

My camera has 20x optical zoom, but this is the closest shot I could get of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez during batting practice.

My camera has 20x optical zoom, but this is the closest shot I could get of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez during batting practice.

It still bugs me that when Gate A opens at 11:30 to let people down behind the dugouts, those of us on the Green Monster couldn’t go down and join them, even after the Red Sox finished up B.P.  All we could do was stay on the Monster or one small section of bleachers while the Blue Jays batted, and had to wait till the other gates opened at 12:00 before being able to access the rest of the park.

I was able to get close enough to get good pictures of the catchers as they long-tossed before the game.

I was able to get close enough to get good pictures of the catchers as they long-tossed before the game.

After making the rounds and getting something to eat, I went out to my seat in the bleachers.  The catchers were out in front of the bullpens warming up, so I was finally able to get some close-up shots.  I also watched bullpen catcher Gary Tuck (who was wearing a walking cast on his foot) working on defensive drills with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as he practiced blocking pitches in the dirt.

The temperature was 57° when the game started, but it was sunny in the bleachers and I was able to take my jacket off for most of the game.  The Blue Jays got on the board in the second, when they had runners at the corners with two outs.  Both runners took off, and Saltalamacchia threw down to second.  They got the out there after a rundown, but the other runner crossed the plate before the out was made, giving the Jays a 1-0 lead.  The way the Red Sox had been playing lately, a one-run deficit often felt worse than it was.  Happily, they answered early today.  In the bottom of the second, Salty drove in the tying run with the third straight single of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a towering home run high over Pesky’s Pole, a 3-run blast that gave the Sox a 4-1 lead and had us all breathing easier.

Jon Lester warms up before the game.  He went six innings and picked up the win.

Jon Lester warms up before the game. He went six-plus innings and picked up the win.

Jon Lester wasn’t at his most dominant, but that just means that he was merely very good.  He had baserunners in every inning but the fourth and ran up a higher than usual pitch count, but only allowed that one cheesy run.  The game got even more comfortable in the sixth, when the Sox had the bases loaded with two outs.  Saltalamacchia continued his good day at the plate by banging one high off the Wall.  Because of the carom, Salty had to stop at first, as two of the runners scored.  J.D. Drew was waved all the way around from first, and I thought it was cool that it was going to be a 3-run single, but Drew thrown was out at the plate in a close play.  That ended the inning, but it extended the Red Sox’ lead and made for a fun afternoon.

Salty had a good day at the plate - 2 hits and 3 RBI.  Here, he warms up in the outfield before the game.

Salty had a good day at the plate, racking up 2 hits and 3 RBI. Here, he warms up in the outfield before the game.

I had my Red Sox Nation card scanned as I entered in the morning, and was watching the scoreboards between innings to see if I won anything.  There are randomly selected RSN members who win a seat upgrade and a prize pack, and a handful of others whose names are welcomed on the scoreboard.  I looked up in the middle of the sixth inning, and there I was!

The Red Sox welcome me to Fenway Park.

The Red Sox welcome me to Fenway Park.

The Red Sox piled on a couple more runs in the eighth.  Jed Lowrie, originally slated to be the utility infielder, had become the hottest hitter on the team and was now playing every day.  He came into the game – on his 27th birthday – batting .500 with a .542 OBP and .727 SLG, and he had already picked up two more hits.  In the eighth, he continued to prove he could do no wrong, when he hit a smash to the first baseman who couldn’t make the play.  The ball trickled only as far as the rolled up tarp, but Jed reached second on the error, and two more runs came across.

Finally today, everything was working the way it was drawn up in the off-season.  Even the weather had turned around.  I noticed the vendors coming through the stands had switched from selling clam chowder* to fresh-squeezed lemonade.

* Bleacher comment of the day:  (Actually this happened on Opening Day, but it fits here.)  A guy in the row in front of us was appalled every time he saw a chowder vendor walk by.  “What’s with all the chowdah?  Where are the sports bahs?”  His friends tried telling him it was too cold, but he maintained that he wanted one of the chocolate-covered ice cream bars.  Someone mentioned there was soft-serve ice cream down in the concourse, but he insisted, “This is Fenway Pahk!  It’s gotta be a sports bah!”

So I thought about Sports Bar Guy today.  They hadn’t quite broken out the summer items like sports bars and frozen lemonade yet, but it was an encouraging sign of spring.

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