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Three Cheers for Tito

Thursday, May 23, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 36

Indians 12, Red Sox 3

The Red Sox returned home after a 6-3 road trip through Tampa, Minnesota, and Chicago.  My next game was the first of a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians, and it marked the managerial return of the best skipper in Red Sox history, Terry Francona, who now led the Tribe.  Since I was coming from work, I wasn’t able to get there extra early, but there was enough time to watch Ryan Dempster warm up in the ‘pen and then grab something to eat, before making the long hike up to my seat in the back of the center field bleachers.

Ryan Dempster warms up before the game.

Ryan Dempster warms up before the game.

The night was warm, but overcast and windy, with the center field flag blowing straight out.  I was a little concerned about Dempster, because his last start was pretty taxing.  The Sox had had a big lead in Minnesota, but he couldn’t make it through the fifth to qualify for the win, even though John Farrell left him in way too long (127 pitches through 4-2/3) to give him the chance.  Now with no days off he was pitching five days later on regular rest, but I was worried about the lingering affects of that prior outing.  He was fine in the first, stranding the one baserunner who reached on a single.

At the end of the first, the Red Sox played a tribute to Tito on the video board, prompting a warm standing ovation that lasted through the entire inning break.  My seat was up close to the board and at an extreme angle so that I could tell what they were doing, but I couldn’t make out the details.  Apparently they were showing a montage that also paid tribute to the other former Red Sox who are now with the Indians: bench coach-turned-third base coach Brad Mills, pitcher Justin Masterson, and infielder Mike Aviles, who was playing third tonight.

Dark clouds and the threat of rain hung over the ballpark all night.

Dark clouds and the threat of rain hung over the ballpark all night.

The second inning was a little rougher for Dempster.  The Indians only plated one, on a bloop “double” that landed fair just behind the first base bag near the camera pit, but he was up to 45 pitches already.  The third was even worse.  Two hits and three walks accounted for three more Cleveland runs, and Dempster threw an astounding 39 pitches, putting him at 84 at the end of the third.  That was the end of the day for him, and the Sox were already in a 4-0 hole.

In the bottom of the third, they started to battle back.  Big Papi launched a 3-run shot, a majestic arc that landed in the stands behind the visitors’ bullpen.  From my spot in center field it looked like it went right into the section where my Tenth Man Plan seats are – I sit there 10 times a year; it figures he’d hit one right to my seat on a night I was sitting elsewhere.  That drew the Sox to within a run and gave us one thing to cheer about.

When rain threatened, I moved over to an empty covered seat in Section 3.

When rain threatened, I moved over to an empty covered seat in Section 3.

The next time a big cheer went up was during a quiet moment between batters.  I couldn’t see the scoreboard from where I was sitting, but I figured it had to be related to the Bruins.  They were trying to wrap up the Eastern Conference Semi-finals with a win over the New York Rangers, and a quick check of my phone confirmed that they had just scored a goal.  They scored twice more during the game, prompting cheers each time as news of the goals spread.  (When we left the park at the end of our game, they were tied 3-3; they ended up losing 4-3 in overtime, but closed out the series in their next game.)

Clayton Mortensen followed Dempster, but he gave up a run in the fourth and another in the fifth.  I thought I felt a few raindrops in the fifth, and I know how long it can take to get down from the back of the bleachers when the skies open up, so I took preventative action and moved over to an empty seat in Section 3 at the end of the inning.  It wasn’t long after I got there that the rain started, so I was glad that I had moved when I did.  What I wasn’t glad about was the horrid pitching in the top of the sixth.  Mortensen loaded the bases with no outs, and then Alex Wilson came in and allowed all the inherited runners to score as well as three more of his own.  By the end of the sixth, it was 12-3, and with the slow pace and the rain, the casual fans cleared out earlier than usual.  That gave me a chance to move over some more, and I watched the final three innings from the grandstand behind home plate in Section 17.

Mike Aviles stands in.  He went 1-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI against his old team.

Mike Aviles stands in. He went 1-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI against his old team.

The Red Sox did nothing else at the plate, and when Andrew Miller set the Tribe down in order in the top of the ninth, it was the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for Boston pitching.  When the game mercifully went final and the Indians came out to shake hands, the Red Sox fans who were sitting closest to the field stayed around to give one more cheer and a classy “Tito, Tito” chant as Francona came out to congratulate his team.  I always look for some sort of redeeming factor to each game, even if they lose, but there was really nothing tonight.  It’s pretty sad when the biggest cheers of the night are for your city’s hockey team and the other team’s manager.

May 23, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • Share on Facebook

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