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To Those Who Wait

Sunday, July 21, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 8, Yankees 7, 11 innings

While the Red Sox finished up a west coast road trip and took off for the All-Star break, I spent a week on the Cape for my birthday.  The weather was beautiful all week, and I got to spend time at the beach every day.  I was back home Saturday, and as I drove in to Boston on Sunday afternoon I joked that my vacation was over and now it was “back to the daily grind” of heading in to Fenway for my next game.  The beach rental had cable, and I was back home before Saturday’s game, so I had been able to watch as the Red Sox and Yankees split the first two games after the break.  The Sox were clinging to a one-game lead over the Rays in the division, and we knew that Tampa had already won their day game.

Drake Britton acknowledges the fans during batting practice, a day after making his major league debut.

Drake Britton acknowledges the fans during batting practice, a day after making his major league debut.

I found a parking space on a side street off Comm. Ave. (although metered spaces are free on Sundays, watch out for the stretch of Comm. Ave. itself where street cleaning starts at 12:00 am on Mondays, because there’s no guarantee that a Red Sox/Yankees night game will be done by midnight) and went in early with my Red Sox Nation card.  The Red Sox were taking batting practice, and I was focusing on the pitchers shagging flies in the outfield, because I wanted to get pictures of a pair of 24-year-olds who were the newest additions to the team – righty Brandon Workman, who made his major league debut and his first start on the road trip, and Drake Britton, the lefty who had just made his debut on Saturday.

I was in my Tenth Man Plan seats in the bleachers, and it was mostly the usual crowd, which was good because that meant I wasn’t adjacent to any Yankees fans.  However, there were a bunch two rows behind me, and they were the sort whose voices carried and who wouldn’t shut up the whole time.  It didn’t help that the Yankees scored two runs off Ryan Dempster in the first inning on two hits, a walk, and two throwing errors.  They tacked on another in the third on a single after a walk and a hit-by-pitch.  The Red Sox got a couple of runners on in the bottom of the second but couldn’t score.  When the second inning ended, it was 9:04, 59 minutes into the game.  Dempster had already thrown 50 pitches, and C.C. Sabathia had thrown 40.  This game was turning into slow torture.  “I really hate the bleeping Yankees,” I posted on facebook.

Mike Napoli's huge home run in the third made me feel a little better.

Mike Napoli gears up for a big swing.

It got a little more tolerable when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to lead off the third.  Shane Victorino sacrificed him over, and Dustin Pedroia singled him home.  Then after Big Papi singled, Mike Napoli launched a huge 3-run homer, giving the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.  I sure felt a lot better, but I couldn’t exactly relax and enjoy myself because, even though we were almost an hour and a half into the game, it was still only the third, and there was a lot of baseball yet to be played.  Things got better in the fourth, when the Sox scored two more on Victorino’s bases-loaded single.  And then in the fifth they extended the lead to 7-3 when Jonny Gomes blasted a moonshot over The Wall, even higher than Napoli’s had been.  (The tradition this year when a Red Sox player hits a home run is for the long batter/pitcher scoreboard in left-center to say “HOME RUN”, then show an extreme close-up of the player’s eyes, and then the player’s nickname.  When Napoli homered it said “NAP”.  When Gomes hit his it said… “IRONSIDES”?  I didn’t know that was his nickname, but it certainly does fit.)

The problem was that it was only the fifth.  Dempster gave up a run in the sixth, and was lifted with one out (after 103 pitches) for Craig Breslow, who gave up another, with only a double play getting them out of the inning.  Sabathia didn’t even make it that deep.  He was done (with 102 pitches) after walking Ellsbury to lead off the sixth.  Now it was down to a battle of the bullpens, and this already long night reached the part of the game where the pace typically slows down further.

The blimp flew overhead during Sunday night baseball.

The blimp flew overhead during Sunday night baseball.

With two on in the sixth, Junichi Tazawa come on in relief of Breslow, and Jose Iglesias’s wild throw on a bunt (the Sox’ third error of the night) allowed the Yankees to climb within a run.  A groundout later in the inning brought home one more, and the game was tied.  The Yankees fans behind us, who had quieted during the past two innings, were loud and annoying again.  The torture level went right back up.

With the game now tied, the bullpens went to work.  Preston Claiborne struck out the side for the Yankees in the seventh.  Matt Thornton pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the Red Sox.  The Sox had a chance to score in the bottom of the eighth, with one out and the bases loaded, but Napoli grounded into an inning-ending double play.  (That’s when the clock struck midnight, and as the ninth inning started the game passed the four-hour mark.)  Koji Uehara worked the ninth, and when the Sox failed to score in the home half, we headed to extras.  So much for my relaxing vacation!

At the end of the ninth, enough people started to bail that I figured we could find better seats somewhere else.  We walked around the back row of the grandstand until we came to Section 15, where there was a whole row that was empty.  We walked well down into the row so that when we sat down there were no poles in our way, plus we wouldn’t be directly blocking anyone right behind us.  As soon as we settled down and the inning started (with Drake Britton making just his second career appearance) I realized there was a girl in the row behind us cheering for the Yankees.  I instantly started scouting for more pleasant seats in the next section over.  Britton pitched a scoreless inning, and Shawn Kelley struck out the side in the bottom of the tenth.  That’s when another girl wearing an “NY” shirt came to sit at the end of our row.  “Oh, careful,” said the Yankees fan girl behind us, “Someone puked there earlier.  I wouldn’t want you to step in it.”  We had just walked down that row.  “Why, because I’m a Yankee fan too?” asked the new girl.  “Of course!”  As soon as the inning was over, my friend and I slid out the other end of the row and found a much nicer spot in Section 16.  I couldn’t resist turning to the girl behind me and saying, “Stay classy!” as we left.

Pedroia and Ortiz made two quick outs in the eleventh as the game approached the 5-hour mark.  That left it up to Mike Napoli, who had hit the big home run earlier which had given the Sox the lead at the time, but who had also struck out three times and grounded into a double play.  He worked a full count, and then, finally, launched a long home run to center field, sending his teammates out to greet him at the plate, and sending us in the stands home happy. “I love beating the bleeping Yankees,” I posted on facebook.

Mike Napoli heads for home plate after hitting a walkoff home run.

Mike Napoli heads for home plate after hitting a walkoff home run.

Napoli's teammates converge at home plate to congratulate him.  That's Jose Iglesias hitting him with a towel.  The rest are busy trying to rip his shirt off.

Napoli's teammates converge at the plate to congratulate him. That's Jose Iglesias hitting him with a towel. The rest are busy trying (unsuccessfully) to pull his shirt off.

The game ended just before 1:00 am, 4 hours and 46 minutes after it started (4 hours and 45 minutes of which were pretty much torture to watch).  Because I had parked on the street, it was easy to get home, and I was actually in by 2:00.  I didn’t go straight to bed, though, because I wanted to watch the highlights of the homer and look through my pictures to see what I had captured of the moment.  But thanks to the happy ending, I wasn’t even tired at work the next day.

July 21, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • Share on Facebook

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