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Love The Drake

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 6, Rays 2

When the Yankees left town, the schedule got tougher for the Red Sox.  They had a 1½ game lead in the division as they started a 4-game series against the second place Tampa Bay Rays, who were on a tear that had seen them move up from fourth place in a couple of weeks.  Matt Moore shut them out in the first game, making Tuesday’s game crucial, especially with Red Sox killer David Price looming for Wednesday’s game.  When I found out that this was another one of the games where we could get a picture taken with a player before the game, I made sure to leave work early.  It had rained off and on all day, and it was really pouring as I dashed from the office to my car, soaking my jacket.  I draped the jacket over the passenger seat to try to dry it a little, and it was down to just a light rain as I got to the T station.  When I got off the train, there was a giant puddle the whole length of the walkway, with no way to go around.  I had no choice but to run through it in as few steps as possible, but that was enough to soak through my canvas shoes.  Just my luck – even though my seat was in the grandstand under cover and the rain let up in time for the game, I was still wet the whole time.

I got to meet Drake Britton before the game.

I got to meet Drake Britton before the game.

When the gates opened, I went right in to the souvenir store to see who the player for the photo session was.  It was Drake Britton, the young lefty who had made his debut over the weekend, and who had impressed me with two scoreless outings against the Yankees.  Unlike when I met Jonny Gomes last month and they printed the photo on the spot, this time they only gave us vouchers to order a “free” print.  (The voucher never covers the full amount of the order, so I had to pay $3.71 in tax and shipping, and then wait for it to come in the mail.  I did go ask at the photo booth if they could print it like they had done before, but they told me they only did it that way one time because they “ran out of vouchers.”)

There was a noticeable buzz around the ballpark with first place on the line.  Jon Lester was facing Roberto Hernandez (who was formerly known as Fausto Carmona when he played for the Indians).  The mood got a little more intense in the second inning when Wil Myers drilled a laser into the light tower for a 1-0 Rays lead, but the Red Sox battled right back.  Three straight hits in the bottom of the inning brought home the tying run.

The rain stopped before the game, and it turned into a beautiful night foe baseball.

The rain stopped before the game, and it turned into a beautiful night for baseball.

In the third, Shane Victorino led off with a double, and after he moved to third on a fly out, Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch.  With Big Papi at the plate, the Rays went into a shift, leaving third base unmanned.  Pedey took off for second, and once the throw went through, Victorino broke for home.  The throw looked like it was dropped by the shortstop at second base (actually it hit off Pedroia as he slid) allowing both runners to be safe.  A steal of home!  Right?  Except an error went up on the board, meaning that the delay when the ball got away at sencond is what allowed Victorino to be safe, and therefore he doesn’t get credit for a stolen base.  So it’s just a steal of second for Pedroia with the run coming home on an E2*.  Not as cool, but it was still the go-ahead run, so even though I wanted Victorino to get credit for it, it was fine with me.

* A couple of innings later, I got an email from my parents telling me that the official scoring had been changed – the error was gone (sure enough it wasn’t on the scoreboard anymore) and Victorino was finally credited with the steal of home.  That’s got to be a record for the slowest stolen base!

The Sox extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth, when Pedroia’s sac fly drove in Daniel Nava after a double and a wild pitch.  That was an important run, because Evan Longoria homered into the bullpen in the sixth to make it 3-2.  John Farrell was managing the game like the important make-or-break moment that it was.  When Lester gave up a double after getting the first out of the seventh, Farrell went to the ‘pen.  Matt Thornton was called in to face the lefty-hitting Sean Rodriguez, and did his part by inducing a grounder to third on just his second pitch.  Then it was back to the ‘pen to fetch righty Junichi Tazawa, who struck out Desmond Jennings on three pitches to get out of the inning and earn a standing ovation that carried through to the seventh-inning stretch.

Stephen Drew slides in safely (according to Jonny Gomes and, eventually, the umpire) with a huge insurance run.

Stephen Drew slides in safely (according to Jonny Gomes and, eventually, the umpire) with a huge insurance run.

Tazawa stayed on for the eighth and picked up two more strikeouts before getting the final out of the inning on a grounder to second.  The Red Sox went into the bottom of the eighth clinging to a 3-2 lead.  After Papi opened the inning by grounding into the shift, Mike Napoli doubled.  Jonny Gomes, pinch-hitting for Mike Carp, singled.  After Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out, Stephen Drew came up with a huge two-out single past the diving first baseman to score Napoli with a crucial insurance run.  As Jose Iglesias stepped to the plate, we all clapped along to his walk-up song, “Seven Nation Army” (”I’m going to Wichita…”).  His average had dropped a little in the past couple of weeks, but he was still over .350, way above and beyond what we had expected of him going into the year.  He chopped an infield hit (his specialty) off the third baseman’s glove.  Gomes scored easily from third, and the shortstop fielded it and threw to the plate as Drew raced homeward.  The plate was blocked and his original slide missed the mark, but the ball got away from the catcher and he was able to go back and tag, at which point the ump finally signalled: Safe!  Our enthusiasm carried over to the next at-bat when we sang along with Shane Victorino’s song, “Three Little Birds” (”Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright”).  He grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was already done.

Enthusiastic high fives await after Koji Uehara nails down a save.

Enthusiastic high fives await after Koji Uehara nails down a save.

All that was left was for Koji Uehara to close it out, and he did just that in his usual fashion – a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts including the final out of the game.  With the lead back up to 1½ games, the Sox were guaranteed of at least one more day in first place.

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

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