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Surviving With Grady

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 4, Reds 3, 12 innings

The Sox had a day off on Monday, and then Tuesday I was on my way back in to Fenway for the first game of a two-game set against the Reds.  This was my first game of the year in the left field grandstand, and it was the same exact seat I had had for a game last year.  In that game, Felix Doubront had been outstanding, but Andrew Bailey gave up a homer in the ninth and the Sox had to pull off a walkoff win.  The funny thing is that tonight Doubront was pitching again, but instead of seeing a Bailey homer, I was now watching Homer Bailey, who was pitching for the Reds.

The concession area behind the third base grandstand was redone this year. There are new tables, a Tasty Burger stand, and the "social media wall".

The concession area behind the third base grandstand was redone this year. There are new tables overlooking Lansdowne St., a Tasty Burger stand, and the "social media wall".

Doubront started off with a 1-2-3 first, and the first two batters reached for the Red Sox in the bottom of the inning.  When Big Papi grounded a potential double play ball to third, Shane Victorino hustled from first to just barely beat the throw to second, while Papi was out at first.  The Reds chose not to challenge, and replays on the TVs under the grandstand confirmed that he was safe.  That split-second was crucial, as Mike Napoli followed with a grounder to first base, which instead of ending the inning allowed Dustin Pedroia to score from third with a rare first inning run.

Since my seat was under cover, there was a 0% chance of rain in the forecast. It was a much nicer day than many of my previous games.

Since my seat was under cover, it figures that there was a 0% chance of rain in the forecast. It was a much nicer day than many of my previous games.

The Reds got the run right back in the second, and only a 5-2-5 rundown between third and home on a baserunning gaffe prevented them from getting any more.  The Sox took advantage of Bailey’s wildness in the third.  Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a walk, and Pedroia followed with a double.  With one out, they chose to intentionally walk Papi (in the third inning of a tie game!) to load the bases.  That move backfired when Mike Napoli worked a full count walk, forcing in the go-ahead run.  Grady Sizemore followed with a run-scoring single, putting the Sox up 3-1.

Grady Sizemore had a good night in left and three hits at the plate.

Grady Sizemore had a good night in left and three hits at the plate.

Now it was up to Doubront to make the lead stand up.  He had been inconsistent to start the year, but I remembered how he started off slowly last year too, before morphing into a reliable starter.  He allowed two hits in the fourth, then threw a 1-2-3 fifth.  When he walked two batters in the sixth and his pitch count neared the century-mark, John Farrell went to the ‘pen.  With two runners on and one out, his choice was sinkerballer Burke Badenhop.  The move paid off when Badenhop’s first pitch was grounded softly to Pedroia at second and turned quickly into an inning-ending double play.

The three young players in the Red Sox line-up: Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, Xander Bogaerts at short, and Will Middlebrooks at third.

The three young players in the Red Sox line-up: Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, Xander Bogaerts at short, and Will Middlebrooks at third.

At the end of the seventh, I moved into an empty seat in the field boxes a few sections over, between third base and the visitors’ dugout.  Badenhop had had a quick seventh inning too, but Junichi Tazawa faltered in the eighth.  A walk, a double, and a single drew the Reds to within a run, and a sac fly tied the game.  I was hoping to avoid this kind of parallel from last year’s game in the same seat, but now they were going to need some kind of late-inning magic.  Koji Uehara gave us all a scare in the ninth.  After an infield hit and a sacrifice bunt, number-nine hitter Tucker Barnhart hit a long fly ball to the warning track in right, but Victorino was able to track it down as the runner tagged.  Then the Reds tried a squeeze play, but it was bunted right back to Koji who was able to hold the runner at third.  Finally he got Joey Votto to pop up to end the threat.  (It’s worth noting that neither Tazawa nor Uehara were sharp last May either.  Koji didn’t take over as closer until June, after Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Tazawa had all struggled.)

Third base coach Brian Butterfield really wants to wave someone home as Grady Sizemore bats.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield really wants to wave someone home as Grady Sizemore bats.

The Sox had a chance to end it in the bottom of the ninth, but Pedroia was caught stealing and Napoli grounded out with two runners on base.  As the game headed for extras, Andrew Miller took the mound.  He had two strong innings with four strikeouts, spanning the tenth and eleventh.  The Red Sox went down in order in the tenth, and their only hit of the eleventh was the 200th double of Pedroia’s career, but he ended up stranded.

David Ortiz started the bottom of the twelfth, and we all stood up to chant, “Papi! Papi!”  He singled through the shift, bringing up “Nap-o-li! Nap-o-li!” who lined a single up the middle.  That brought Sizemore to the plate.  And after everything we went through at the end of the 2003 season, it sounded a little odd to be filling Fenway Park with chants of “Grady! Grady!”  (Might as well get used to it, considering one of the Sox’ top prospects is Mookie Betts.  That’s a name that’s haunted me since 1986, but someday soon I’ll be cheering for him.)  He swung at the first pitch and drove it into left-center, where it banged off the base of The Wall.  Big Papi, who much to my delight hadn’t been pinch-run for, had plenty of time to motor around with the winning run.

Tonight's hero is under somehwere under one of those piles.

Tonight's hero is in there somewhere! He's actually being chased by JBJ, Mike Carp and others, while Jonny Gomes lifts the batting helmet off Napoli's head.

For the twelfth inning, I had moved around closer to home plate, but in a seat that I thought had a good view without a lot of people in front of me.  But when the final hit fell, a guy in front of me jumped up on his seat to get a better view.  I had to follow suit to see over him, and by then Papi had crossed the plate.  But I did get a shot of the aftermath, as Grady’s teammates rushed out to first base to congratulate him.  It might not have been the easiest way to get a much-needed win, but all is forgiven after a good old fashioned walkoff, and it ended up a fun game.

May 6, 2014 • Posted in: 2014 Games • Share on Facebook

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