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Double (Or Should I Say Triple) Your Pleasure

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Game 1 – Red Sox 3, Rays 1

The Red Sox went 3-3 on a road trip to Minnesota and Seattle, but they were home for a very strange two-day, three-game homestand before heading out on the road again.  There was a doubleheader on Tuesday with an afternoon “getaway day” game on Wednesday.  Tuesday’s night game was one that I’d had tickets to all along, but the day game was the makeup of a rainout in April, so I got to go to both games.  Of course, it wouldn’t be official if there wasn’t any rain in the forecast, and today was no exception.  I brought all my rain gear, because the last thing I wanted was to get soaked in the first game and then be uncomfortable for the whole second game.

Jon Lester set the tone with a strong outing in Game 1.

Jon Lester had a strong outing in Game 1.

My full day of baseball began at noon.  For the first game we sat in our Tenth Man Plan seats behind the visitors’ dugout.  The matchup pitted the two teams’ aces – Jon Lester and James Shields – against each other, and both pitchers proved to be up to the task.  Lester ran into a little trouble in the first when the opening batter doubled and stole third, but he was able to minimize the damage and the Rays came away with just one run.  Shields set the Sox down in order in the first, and again in the second, though not without a little confusion.  I write down the lineups in my scorecard when they’re announced, and I had Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Carl Crawford due up in the second.  But when Youk lined to short to open the inning, Crawford came up next.  I know it can sometimes be distracting in the bleachers, but there was no way I had missed an entire at-bat, plus the scoreboard confirmed that there was one out and no one on.  Big Papi had apparently been scratched from the lineup, and it wasn’t until the next inning that I saw that Jed Lowrie had replaced him as DH and was hitting eighth, with everyone else moving up a spot.  My scorecard was now a mess from moving all the players’ names around, and it got even messier when the rain started in the bottom of the second.

Lester had given up two hits in the first, and a walk and hit-by-pitch in the second, but after that he went on cruise control, blowing through the 2-3-4 hitters in the third.  The Red Sox finally broke through against Shields in the third, when Josh Reddick and Mike Aviles singled.  Jacoby Ellsbury followed with his 21st home run of the year, a 3-run blast that landed in the narrow ramp area between the last section of bleachers and the first section of grandstand.  That’s right near where I was sitting, and my parents called to say they had seen me briefly on TV.  (They also said nothing had been announced about Papi’s apparent injury yet.)

With the Red Sox now on top 3-1, the game switched into pitchers’ duel mode.  Lester struck out the side in the fourth and pitched through the seventh, allowing only one more baserunner on a harmless single by Evan Longoria in the sixth.  Shields ended up pitching all eight innings for his team, and the three hits the Sox strung together in the third accounted for their only baserunners of the game.  Daniel Bard continued the trend with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon breezed through the ninth.  The game ended in a brisk 2 hours and 23 minutes, leaving plenty of time to get everyone out and get the park cleaned up for the nightcap.

My friend and I decided to eat at Jerry Remy’s restaurant, just across the street from the park, between games.  It was still overcast when we left the park, but we started to see some breaks in the clouds.  We ended up getting a table outside, and while we ate the sun came out.  I looked on my phone and saw that Papi’s injury was bursitis in his heel, and that he’d be available in the second game if necessary.  After eating we had time to browse through a couple of nearby stores before heading back in when the gates opened for Game 2.

Fenway Park was very quiet in between games of the doubleheader.

Fenway Park was very quiet in between games of the doubleheader.

Game 2 – Rays 6, Red Sox 2

Normally there’s a bustle of activity in front of the dugout before a game, but with everyone resting up for the nightcap, Fenway was quiet and still when we re-entered, with nary a player, coach, or grounds crew member to be spotted.  Our seats for the second game were in the same section of the bleachers as before, but all the way up in the very last row.  We waited until just before the start of the game to make the long trek up, because this was my first chance to see Erik Bedard since he had been acquired at the trading deadline last month, and I wanted to get some close-up pictures as he warmed in the bullpen.

Erik Bedard started Game 2.

Erik Bedard warms up before Game 2.

The Red Sox lineup was much the same as it had been for the first game, except that with Papi still out, Crawford was the DH.  Darnell McDonald took over in left, Jason Varitek was catching instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jed Lowrie spelled Kevin Youkilis at third.  This was Bedard’s third start since joining the Red Sox.  He had pitched decently enough in the first two, but hadn’t received much run support and had no wins to show for it yet.  He started off with a 1-2-3 first, but then the first two batters of the second inning reached base.  I did what I almost always do when there are two on and no outs – I turned to my friend and said, “We need a triple play right now.”  But of course, I’m never actually right, and after Lowrie made an error, both runners ended up scoring.  Tek got the Sox on the board with a solo homer in the third.

The Captain came through with a homer in the nightcap.

The Captain came through with a homer in the nightcap.

With the score still 2-1 in favor of the Rays, B.J. Upton started the fourth inning with a single into shallow center, and Casey Kotchman lined a base hit into left.  Sean Rodriguez took ball one and then hit a grounder toward third.  Lowrie fielded the ball, took one step to his right to step on third base, and threw to Dustin Pedroia, who made the out at second, spun, and threw on to a stretching Adrian Gonzalez at first.  It took a second to sink in because it had happened so fast, but as the players all walked off the field, we realized that it was true – we had just seen a triple play!  The cheers started as typical “nice play” applause and then grew to a roar as everyone realized what they had just witnessed.  I quoted all the requisite trivia to my friend – how the last triple play turned by the Red Sox was John Valentin’s unassisted one in 1994, and how Scott Hatteberg had grounded into one in 2001 on the same night in which he had a grand slam.  A triple play has long been on my baseball “bucket list” and I was excited to be able to check that rare feat off.  (The triple play was thrilling, but my whole baseball life has been building up to predicting it and I whiffed.  Every time the leadoff guy gets on in an inning I’ll say, “They’re just setting up the double play.”  And then if the second guy also reaches I’ll say, “It’s OK, they’re just setting up the triple play.”  I even made the same comment in earlier in this game.  But then, the one time I didn’t say it, it happened!)

A beautiful sunset was the backdrop for a rare and exciting play.

A beautiful sunset was the backdrop for a rare and exciting play.

The fun play energized the crowd, but it didn’t help the offense get going.  Jeff Niemann continued to shut down the Red Sox.  After the Rays had increased their lead to 3-1, Jacoby Ellsbury hit his second homer of the day (and his team-leading 22nd of the year) to pull the Sox to within a run.  Bedard pitched six innings and gave up three runs (only two of which were earned).  It was again a decent enough outing, but once again there wasn’t enough run support.  Jacoby’s homer was just the third Sox hit of the night (they had only picked up three hits in the afternoon game, too), and Niemann ended up retiring 12 straight to finish off the complete game.  Even though I was disappointed by the outcome of the night game, I was still excited by having seen the triple play, and, as I explained at work the next day, any time you can spend the whole day at Fenway it’s a beautiful thing!

Row 50 is a looooong way back!

Row 50 is a long way back!

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