Stuck in the Middle with You
Wednesday, May 2, 2012 – Fenway Park, Section 33
A’s 4, Red Sox 2
It was a week and a half before I got back to Fenway. The previous homestand had ended with a disturbing 15-9 loss in a game which the Sox had led 9-0, and then a merciful rainout. The team’s luck changed on the road, and they went 6-1 in Minnesota and Chicago, before splitting the first two games against the Oakland A’s after returning home. Tonight’s game was another one that featured throwback uniforms, this time from 1936 to commemorate Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx’s first year with the Red Sox after he was traded from the Philadelphia A’s. The uniforms weren’t that different from today’s – it was mostly the socks and hats that were different. (I like the socks – they’re similar to the ones Mike Benjamin and Jeff Frye used to wear in the late 90’s.) And at least by 1936 the Red Sox were wearing uniform numbers, so these weren’t blank on the back like the 1912 ones had been, which made it easier for me to keep score.
When I got to the ballpark and looked up the lineups on my phone, I read that Lars Anderson had been sent back to Pawtucket and third baseman Will Middlebrooks had been called up. Middlebrooks is one of the top-ranked prospects in the organization, and he was off to a hot start in Triple-A. So with Kevin Youkilis missing the past couple of games with a strained back, he was making his major league debut tonight, batting eighth and manning the hot corner.
Although the calendar now said May, the weather was more like an early April game. It was in the 40’s when the game started, and of course got colder as the game went on. Luckily my seat in the left field corner was shielded from the wind, and I was dressed for the cold with longjohns and my winter hat, so I was OK.
The game was scoreless in the second, with 2 outs and no one on, when Middlebrooks came up for the first time. He walked on four pitches, and then proceeded to steal second, making a favorable first impression. Unfortunately Marlon Byrd, who had been acquired in a trade during the last road trip (with the Red Sox sending Michael Bowden to the Cubs), struck out to end the inning.
Daniel Bard pitched really well through the first three innings, but the second time through the order the A’s were able to string some hits together and score a run. Middlebrooks certainly did his part to get the Red Sox on the board. After walking his first time up, he picked up his first major league hit with an infield single in the fifth. Bard started to tire in the sixth, and Bobby Valentine left him in long enough to give up 3 runs on 4 hits and a HBP.
I was surprised when the call went to the bullpen to start the seventh and Clayton Mortensen came on. I remembered that he was the player acquired in the Marco Scutaro trade over the winter, and I had seen him in Spring Training, but I didn’t realize he had been called up to the majors. I figured that meant Youkilis had gone on the D.L. after all, and I confirmed it on my phone. Mortensen did a really good job pitching the final three innings, with only one baserunner allowed – a single to the first batter he faced – and 6 strikeouts.
Middlebrooks came up for his third plate appearance in the seventh inning with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on first. He maintained his 1.000 batting average and picked up his first career extra-base hit, a double that sent Salty to third. Byrd followed with a sacrifice fly, and the Sox were finally on the board.
When the casual fans all headed for the exits in the eighth, I moved down to the box seats behind third base. As big a difference as it is to come from my usual vantage point in the bleachers to the grandstand, it makes just as big a difference to move from the grandstand down to the field level seats. It was fun to watch the final innings from a spot that felt like I was right behind the third baseman. I also got a good view of the rally the Red Sox staged in the ninth. Mike Aviles reached on an infield single and Dustin Pedroia doubled him home, but that was all they could do, and my record at Fenway this year dropped to 1-3.