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Carp-tastic

Thursday, April 24, 2014 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Yankees 14, Red Sox 5

The Red Sox were struggling out of the gate with inconsistent starting pitching and sloppy defense, but I’ve been chalking that up to their shortened off-season.  (I’m certainly not going to complain about the reason it was so short!)  They just need some time to gel as a team, and getting their injured players back in the lineup on a daily basis won’t hurt.  Wednesday’s game, which I watched gleefully from home, was a step in the right direction.  Besides the Red Sox picking up a much-needed win, the Yankees were humiliated as Michael Pineda was ejected from the game for a very obvious use of a foreign substance, pine tar, which he “hid” in a giant, shiny glob all over his neck.  The first thing I did when I got to Thursday’s game was to post this picture on Facebook:

Ready to score the game at Fenway tonight. It's cold and windy, so if it gets hard to hold onto my pen, I'm going to head down to the Yankees' dugout and borrow some pine tar.

"Ready to score the game at Fenway tonight. It's cold and windy, so if it gets hard to hold onto my pen, I'm going to head down to the Yankees' dugout and borrow some pine tar."

This was my first night game of the year, and I brought all my warm gear in anticipation of it going late into the night.  Traffic was heavy as I got close to the T station, and by the time I got to Fenway, made a pitstop, grabbed my food, and headed to my seat, Felix Doubront was already warming up in the bullpen.

Felix Doubront warms up in the 'pen before the game.

Felix Doubront warms up in the 'pen before the game.

The game started off well, with Jacoby “What Would Johnny Damon Do” Ellsbury striking out and Derek Jeter grounding weakly back to the pitcher.  But then Xander Bogaerts missed a ground ball for an error, and a double drove home the first run of the game.  It got worse from there.  In the second, Dustin Pedroia was charged with an error on the the controversial “transfer play” that was new for this year*.  In past years, as long as the fielder made the catch cleanly, the runner was out, even if he dropped the ball making the transfer from glove to throwing hand.  Now it was more like football, where players were supposed to have control of the ball the whole time.  When Pedey dropped it on the transfer, he was charged with an error and the runner was declared safe.

(*MLB changed the “transfer rule” the following week, reverting to the way it’s been in previous years.)

A wild pitch and a double plated two more runs, and then with runners at first and third and Carlos Beltran at the plate, there was more controversy.  Doubront threw a wild pitch that skipped to the backstop.  The runner on third scored and the runner on first moved to second.  I looked down at my scorecard to record the play, so I missed that the umps had sent the runner who had scored back to third, thinking that the ball had hit Beltran.  The Yankees invoked the other new rule change this year and challenged the play, alleging that he wasn’t hit.  The welcome change to me as a fan is that they announced over the P.A. that the Yankees were challenging the play and showed it in slo-mo several times on the main scoreboard.  (This made no sense to me though, since I had missed them sending the runners back, and I thought that the Yankees wanted it to be a HBP… which would have meant the run wouldn’t have scored.)  The replay clearly showed that the ball hit the dirt in front of the plate and not the batter, so the call was overturned and the runner scored from third (again, which really confused me, since I had already written it in).

All of that nastiness was in the second inning, and the game was almost an hour old already.  I’ll spare you the gory details of the third inning, but suffice it to say that two more errors, three stolen bases, and a homer led to three more runs and a 7-0 Yankees lead.

Shane Victorino doubled and scored a run in his 2014 debut.

Shane Victorino doubled and scored a run in his 2014 debut.

The one bright spot in the game was the first appearance of Shane Victorino in 2014.  He had started the year on the D.L. due to various nagging injuries.  In his first at-bat he was welcomed back with a warm ovation, and we got to experience yet another rule change for this year.  In an attempt to speed up the games, MLB is limiting players’ at-bat music to only 15 seconds.  And Victorino’s anthem “Three Little Birds” is too long to get the whole famous line in.  All that fits now are the introductory notes and “Don’t worry-” and we had to finish it up, “…about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright.”  (When his at-bats lead off an inning, like they did tonight in the fifth and the ninth, they can play the whole thing; they just start while it’s still the inning break.)  He did his part to make every little thing alright tonight, with a double in the third inning, and he scored the Red Sox’ second run of the game as they pulled to within 7-2.

(Fenway Moment of the Day: In the fifth inning, they showed a marriage proposal on the scoreboard between innings.  Normally this would be met by cheers, but the problem is the girl was a Yankees fan, so instead everyone booed and yelled, “Don’t do it!”)

We moved down to the box seats behind the dugout in the seventh inning.

We moved down to the box seats behind the dugout in the seventh inning.

Burke Badenhop came in to relieve Doubront in the third, and pitched into the sixth, allowing only one hit and one walk in that time.  But in the seventh, Craig Breslow struggled, leading to another horrific inning in which the Yankees scored five more times on five hits, three walks, and the Red Sox’ fifth error of the night.  Yes, that’s right – their fifth error – and they finished with only four hits on the night.

We took advantage of the seventh inning stretch to move around to the first base side and find better seats to watch the rest of the game.  We actually were treated to a little rally, as the Red Sox scored three runs (thanks in part to a Jeter error, which never gets old), but that was just delaying the inevitable.  As the Red Sox went down quietly in the bottom of the eighth, I noticed one of the video boards announced, “Now warming, Carp, 0-0, 0.00″.  I nudged my friend: “Look who’s pitching the ninth!”  The game had gotten so out of hand that outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp was taking one for the team and sparing the rest of the bullpen from this debacle.

When your outfielder submits the best pitching performance of the night, things are not going well.

When your left fielder submits the best pitching performance of the night, things are not going well.

We cheered as he jogged in from the bullpen and met David Ross on the mound.  His first batter was Mark Teixeira, and he walked him on a full count. He was throwing a few fastballs around 80-83 mph, but mostly 66 mph knuckleballs.  (Or maybe they just call it a knuckleball if it comes in at less than 70 mph.)  Brian McCann was next, and Carp got him to ground into a double play.  When he got two strikes on Brett Gardner we all jumped to our feet and started clapping, trying to will an inning-ending strikeout.  He ended up walking Gardner, and then the next two batters too, though he had two strikes on most of them.  “Get him some pine tar!” I yelled, which was good for a couple of chuckles from the people around me.  When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury it forced in a run.  Fans were having fun getting on the ump about the strike zone, yelling, “He’s squeezing him!” and booing every ball.  Finally, mercifully, Kelly Johnson hit a foul popup, and Ross made the catch to end the inning.

Victorino led off the bottom of the ninth, and as the first few notes of “Three Little Birds” played, I yelled out, “I hate to say it, Shane, but I’m starting to get a little worried!”  The Red Sox went down in order in the ninth, putting the horror show out of its misery four torturous hours after it had started.  I’ve been to enough games that this wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever seen, but at least Carp’s pitching gave us something to cheer about and softened the blow a bit.

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