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Jonny on the Spot

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 – Fenway Park, Field Box 39 and Section 32

Game 1 – Red Sox 5, Rays 1

The Red Sox were back home from a grueling road trip through Tampa Bay and Baltimore, on which they went 3-4 with two of the games going deep into extra innings.  After an off-day Monday, they faced a doubleheader on Tuesday.  The first game was a makeup of a rainout from the first homestand of the year.  I had managed to miss that one, but I had a ticket to the regularly-scheduled nightcap.  (And as my co-workers like to remind me, every time I have a game, there’s rain in the forecast.)  While I followed along online at work, the Red Sox built a 4-1 lead in the first game.  I work west of Boston, so the torrential showers started there first, but when the downpour reached Boston, the Sox had the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth, and the game was halted.  Since the home team had the lead, the game was “official” after 4½ innings.

Ellsbury takes a lead off third after his sixth-inning triple.

Jacoby Ellsbury takes a lead off third after his sixth-inning triple.

So why not just call it, and then try to get the night game in?  Because the rules state that if the weather is good enough to play a second game later in the day, then it’s good enough to resume the first one.  If they called Game 1 early, they’d have to postpone my Game 2 till another day.  (I remembered this rule from the time they played two full games during Hurricane Irene in 2011 – though there was also a day in 2009 when they had either bent that rule or it wasn’t in place yet.)  Instead, they were going to have to wait for the rain to stop, play the final 4 innings of Game 1, and then see if they could get Game 2 in.  It looked like a long night ahead for me, with the possibility of not seeing any baseball.  I didn’t even have a ticket to the first game and it was messing with my plans!  I left work at 5:00, like I normally do for a night game, figuring I had plenty of time.  My plan was to go into one of the area bars to grab something to eat and watch the end of the first game, if and when they resumed it.

As I drove in, I had the radio on in the car, and I heard the announcement that the Red Sox were going to let the people with tickets to Game 2 in to see the end of Game 1.  And with the rain now letting up, that would be at 5:55, just about 3 hours after the tarp had come out.  Suddenly, I couldn’t get there fast enough.  There have been plenty of times when I had been to games that weren’t resumed after rain delays, causing them to lose when I was sure they’d be able to come back, and now finally they were making it up to me!  They also announced that the people who had stuck it out through the long rain delay could stay for Game 2 if they wanted.

Bonus baseball: I found a fantastic seat in Field Box 39 for the end of the first game.

Bonus baseball: I found a fantastic seat in Field Box 39 for the end of the first game.

I made it to Fenway by 6:15, which is actually pretty good for a weeknight, and I went right down behind home plate and wiped off an empty box seat.  I had missed the final out of the fifth and the top of the sixth, but as soon as I sat down, Jacoby Ellsbury laced a triple into the right field corner.  That reminded me that earlier in the game he had hit a single and a double.  He’d get at least one more at-bat – maybe he’d hit for the cycle.  No Red Sox player has done that since John Valentin in 1996, and I’ve never seen it done.  (That led to a moral dilemma – if Ellsbury hit for the cycle today and I was only there to see the final two hits, could I cross that off my proverbial baseball bucket list?  Or would it not count as seeing one in person?  These are things a diehard fan worries about.)

Shane Victorino followed with his own triple into almost the same spot, scoring Ellsbury.  That got me thinking about how I once witnessed 4 straight home runs, and how cool it would be if I could see 3 (or more) straight triples.  But Dustin Pedroia struck out to end the inning, and next time up, Jacoby lined out to third, putting the cycle question to rest too.  I could tell from the “36″ on the scoreboard that Junichi Tazawa had pitched the sixth before I got there, and I got to see Andrew Miller in the seventh, Koji Uehara in the eighth, and Craig Breslow in the ninth as the Red Sox wrapped up the win.  The game finally ended at 7:15, just over six hours after it had started.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to catch both halves of the doubleheader, with David Ross going back on the D.L. with concussion symtoms and Ryan Lavarnaway not able to get here from Pawtucket in time for the second game.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to catch both halves of the doubleheader, with David Ross going back on the D.L. with concussion symtoms and Ryan Lavarnaway not able to get here from Pawtucket in time for the second game.

The announcement was made that the second game would begin 40 minutes later, and that everyone had to leave and then come back in again.  I was a little surprised because in the Hurricane Irene doubleheader, I had been a part of a similar scenario, when I had a ticket for Game 2 and got to go in early to watch the end of Game 1 after it resumed from a rain delay.  That day, the Game 1 fans were also allowed to stay for Game 2.  But that time no one had to leave in between – of course there were only a few hundred fans who had made it all the way through the first game and/or arrived early for the second.  Even though it was technically sold out, I guess they figured not everyone would show up, especially since the game had been moved up a day early with the brunt of the hurricane expected to hit the next day.  (You’d have to be crazy to drive into a hurricane and sit through a game.  Luckily, I am, and enjoyed watching both games from the second row that day.)

This time, the second game was going to be close to full and was on its regularly scheduled day.  So everyone had to exit from the first game and then get in line to come in for the second.  Fans from Game 1 who wanted to stay were asked to exchange their tickets at Gate E, so they must have been given real assigned seats rather than having to look for an empty one.  I took advantage of the short break to get an Italian sausage from a vendor on Yawkey Way, and then got in and made it to my seat in left field just in time for the National Anthem.

Game 2 – Red Sox 3, Rays 1

The second game started at 8:06, and with the normally slow-working Felix Doubront on the mound and cloudy skies overhead, it still had the potential for a late night.  But Doubront was efficient in the first, retiring the side on only 12 pitches, despite allowing a single to the first batter.  He continued with another 12-pitch inning in the second, again allowing just a harmless single.

Felix Doubront pitched the best game of his career, an 8-inning, 3-hit, no-walk performance.

Felix Doubront pitched the best game of his career, an 8-inning, 3-hit, no-walk performance.

Daniel Nava put the Sox on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the second.  He had had some other key home runs this year, like his 3-run shot on Opening Day that accounted for all of the team’s runs, and his dramtic eighth inning homer in Boston’s first home game after the marathon bombings.  If tonight’s 1-0 score stood, that would be another game to add to the list of Nava’s contibutions.

Doubront did his part to make the score hold up.  The Rays opened the third with a single, but the runner was erased on a double play.  After that, Felix retired the next 15 batters in a row.  His most taxing inning of the night was the 13-pitch fifth, and that’s only because it included two of his six strikeouts.  By the end of the eighth he had a very impressive line – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 93 pitches – and the Red Sox still held a 1-0 lead.  I really wanted him to come back for the ninth and try for his first career shutout, but instead Andrew Bailey was summoned in from the ‘pen.  He uses “Shippin’ Up To Boston” for his entrance song, and while we all clapped along, it wasn’t with the same enthusiasm that we used to have for it.  Between the fact that Bailey had given up homers in two of his last three games on the road trip, and wanting to see Doubront pitch a complete game, it just didn’t feel right.  I wish my gut instinct was proven wrong, but he gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, number 9 hitter Kelly Johnson.  That tied the game and ruined the chance for Doubront to get the win after pitching probably the best game of his young career.

My seat was a good one in left field, under cover and not near any poles, and with the close game, not many people had bailed early.  But once it was tied up, I decided to move around to closer seats to watch the comeback.  Because while my instinct had given me pause when Bailey came in, I also felt equally confident that the Sox would find a way to pull this one out.  They had already had five walk-off wins, and though I hadn’t seen any of them in person, I had a good feeling about this one.  I wound up in the field box seats behind the visitors’ dugout.  Daniel Nava was due to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and I expected him to hit a game-winning homer, but instead he walked.  That brought up Jonny Gomes, and he didn’t make us wait long.  He drilled the first pitch he saw high over the Green Monster, where it bounced off the Sports Authority sign for the win.  As his tired but happy teammates rushed out to the plate to meet him, I found that this seat with the great view wasn’t so great when everyone stood up.  Most of my pictures of the celebration have random strangers’ arms in the way, but I somehow managed to capture this awesome moment:

Jonny Gomes leaps into a sea of happy teammates after his game-winning blast.

Jonny Gomes leaps into a sea of excited teammates after his game-winning blast.

It wasn’t till I got home and watched on the DVR that I saw Gomes’ dropkick of his helmet after he rounded third.  (I did see the helmet in the air, but figured he had tossed it.)  But it made for the perfect ending to a full day of baseball.  The game ended at 10:35, no later than a lot of the 7:10 games I’ve gone to.  And instead of bad weather cheating me out of innings and wins, it allowed me to see more than I otherwise would have.

June 18, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • Share on Facebook

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