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A Grand Game for Tim

Sunday, July 24, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 36

Red Sox 12, Mariners 8

The Red Sox started out after the All-Star break the same way they had left off – on a roll.  They took two of three in Tampa Bay, including an epic Sunday night game that ended with a 1-0 win in the sixteenth inning in the wee hours of Monday morning.  Then they took two of three in Baltimore.  When they returned home, they won the first two against the Mariners, and when I headed in Sunday, they were going for the sweep.  I always like to park on the street for free at a meter on Sundays, but this time I got my best parking space ever, right in Kenmore Square itself.

Tim Wakefield, who has pitched for the Red Sox since 1995 and is closing in on his 200th win, warms up before the game.

Tim Wakefield, who has pitched for the Red Sox since 1995 and is closing in on his 200th win, warms up before the game.

I know not to expect to see batting practice on a Sunday, but when the gates opened we saw D’Angelo Ortiz and another kid playing catch in front of the dugout.  They were taking turns being the pitcher and the catcher, and when it was “Li’l Papi’s” turn to throw, he had a nice little wind-up.  I never did figure out who the other kid was – he was about the same age, but wearing a Dustin Pedroia t-shirt rather than a uniform jersey of whoever his father was.  Meanwhile, the big league pitchers were doing their long-tossing out in right field, but thanks to a new policy this year, fans can’t go anywhere other than the infield for the first half-hour after the gates open, or 12:05.  Of course, the pitchers came off the field at exactly 12:04, preventing me from getting the close-up pictures I used to like.

It was a hot, sunny day, so I stayed in the shade of the grandstand until just before the game.  On my way to my seat in center field, I stopped by the bullpen to watch as Tim Wakefield warmed up.

The game didn’t start out on a good note – Miguel Olivo hit a 2-run homer in the first inning, giving the Mariners an early lead – but the Red Sox offense had been so hot lately that it didn’t worry me.  It didn’t take long for my faith to be rewarded.  Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, and Adrian Gonzalez drove him in.  Kevin Youkilis followed with a home run, and later in the inning Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in two more, for a final tally of five runs in the inning.

Josh Reddick was getting more an more playing time in right field, and he once again delivered with a 2-for-5 day with two runs scored and one batted in.

Josh Reddick was getting more and more playing time in right field, and he once again delivered with a 2-for-5 day with two runs scored and one batted in.

Wakefield settled down after that, and pitched like his usual dependable self.  The Mariners were able to sneak a third run across in the fifth inning (though the damage was limited to one run after Wake picked off a baserunner).  But the Red Sox offense got right back in gear and batted around (again) for a five-run inning (again).  This time the big blows were from Carl Crawford (two-run single), Josh Reddick (one-run double), and Salty’s second two-run single of the day.

In the sixth, Wake tossed a 1-2-3 inning, finishing up with a strikeout of Mike Carp.  As he walked off the field, the fans behind the dugout gave him a standing ovation that sounded louder than usual.  He only had 84 pitches at that point and was sure to come back for the seventh, so it wasn’t the standard end-of-a-good-outing applause.  When I turned around and looked at the scoreboard I saw the reason: that was Wakefield’s 2000th strikeout as a member of the Red Sox.  The ovation spread throughout the ballpark and lasted the whole time between innings, and it brought tears to my eyes as I thought back over Wake’s career.

The summer of 1995, when Wakefield first joined the team and got off to a 14-1 start, was the year I graduated from college and moved out.  He’s been on the team my whole adult life!  Before moving out that August, I got my first car, and my brother and I got tickets for a game in July.  We drove down from Maine, the first time I had made my way to Fenway without my parents or a school trip.  I remember stopping in the souvenir store before the game and buying a Mo Vaughn shirt.  Mo was my favorite, and I was instantly justified as he hit two homers that day.  But thinking back on it 16 years later, I wish I had bought a Wakefield shirt instead.  He was one of my favorites that year, but I guess I thought of him as more of a flash-in-the-pan, whereas Mo was a long-term sure thing (or so I thought back then), plus he didn’t actually pitch in the one game I got to attend that year.  But if I had, it would have outlasted not only the Vaughn shirt but all the Garciaparra, Martinez, Schilling, and Millar shirts that I would go on to accumulate in the years to come.

Tim Wakefield was called out for a curtain call after picking up his 2000th strikeout as a member of the Red Sox.

Tim Wakefield was called out for a curtain call after picking up his 2000th strikeout as a member of the Red Sox.

Our cheers grew as Wake walked off the field and was hugged and congratulated by his teammates, and we didn’t stop until he came back out to the top step for a curtain call.

After that special moment, the only drama left was Dustin Pedroia’s hitting streak.  He had hit in 20 straight games coming into today, but as of the fifth inning he was 0-for-3, one of only two Red Sox without a hit.  The “Muddy Chicken” (a new nickname bestowed on Pedroia by his teammates after his game-winning hit in the 16th inning last Sunday) put that to rest in the sixth, with a leadoff double that extended his streak to 21 games.  Gonzalez drove him in to make the score 11-3, and then Wakefield took the mound for the top of the seventh.

Wake got the first out on a fly ball to center, but then gave up three straight singles.  The next pitch was hammered over the Green Monster by Brendan Ryan, a grand slam that made the score 11-7.  That spelled the end of the day for Wakefield, and while Alfredo Aceves jogged in from the ‘pen, Wake got his second standing ovation as he walked off the field.  I thought it was a sweet Fenway moment that a guy who had just given up a grand slam was so well respected by the fans that he earned a standing ovation on his way out.

With the Red Sox holding a large lead, Yamaico Navarro got an at-bat in the eighth.

With the Red Sox holding a large lead, Yamaico Navarro got an at-bat in the eighth.

Aceves got out of the inning, and I used the seventh inning stretch to move out of the sun to the comfortably shaded seats in the Section 16 grandstand.  The Red Sox padded their lead with three hits in the seventh, including Ellsbury’s RBI single.  Aceves pitched the rest of the game, allowing only a harmless run in the ninth, but the day belonged to Wakefield.  He picked up the win, number 197 of his career and number 183 with the Red Sox, as he made progress toward two more milestones: 200 career wins and the all-time Red Sox record of 192 wins.

July 24, 2011 • Posted in: 2011 Games • Share on Facebook

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