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Uber-Excited

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4, 15 innings

After the All-Star Break, the Red Sox opened by splitting a four-game series with the Yankees, including a 16-inning loss on Saturday followed by a doubleheader on Sunday.  So much for resting up!  Now the Blue Jays were in town for a four-game set.  I had entered and won a Season Ticket Holder raffle for pre-game on-field passes before Tuesday’s game.  All that meant was I got to enter early and stand on the warning track in front of home plate during batting practice.  Any Season Ticket Holder can go in the early entrance line with Red Sox Nation members 2½ hours before the game, but they’re confined to the bleachers and the Green Monster seats.  This time, I got to enter at the same time but was ushered right down to a roped-off area between the dugout and home plate.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to lift our spirits.

Hanley Ramirez signed a few autographs for fans before the game. By the end, he'd come up with an even better way to give love.

When I came in with a couple of other Season Ticket Holders at 4:45, there was a group already on the field wearing badges that said 4:30.  They must have been from some tour group or package, but it meant we couldn’t get up that close.  It was also the end of Red Sox batting practice, so we only saw the last group of hitters: Brock Holt, Hanley Ramirez, and Christian Vazquez.  Jason Varitek was also out watching with the rest of the coaches.  When Red Sox B.P. wrapped up and the Blue Jays started to hit, we got to stay there, and eventually the tour group left, so I moved up as the grounds crew rolled away the batting cage and set up for the game.  It was really humid and the sky looked like it would open up at any minute, but the rain held off.

I wonder why the grounds crew is sticking so close to the tarp...

When the sky looks like this, the grounds crew sticks close to the tarp.

After getting something to eat, I went out to the bleachers to watch Brian Johnson warm up.  He wasn’t out there yet, but one look at the sky told me why.  It was pretty obvious that rain was imminent, so I thought it was funny that they went ahead with the pre-game festivities (blood donor of the game, bat kids of the game, multiple ceremonial “first” pitches, etc.) even as the sky got darker and darker.  It’s like no one told the P.A. announcer, as he prattled on while the grounds crew started unrolling the tarp around them.  They finally got the pre-game participants off the field and the tarp in place just before the rain started.  I went up to the covered grandstand seats in Section 2 to wait out the delay.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

Brian Johnson warms up in the bullpen before the game.

It poured really hard for about a half-hour, and when it lightened up the grounds crew came back out to start rolling up the tarp.  By the time they were ready to start, it was 8:10, one hour late.  The rain had stopped and it was a lot more pleasant than when I had first arrived, and I went out to my seat in straightaway center, over near the flagpole.  Johnson was pitching because with the doubleheader on Sunday, they needed a sixth starter.  He had been called up before the game along with fellow PawSox starter Hector Velazquez.  To make room, Robby Scott and Sam Travis were sent down.  It was interesting that they had called up two starters, even if both were expected to be here for just a day, but with the doubleheader and a long extra-inning game, the bullpen was pretty depleted.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

The rain had stopped when the game started, and we were treated to a pretty sky.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

After the game got underway, dark clouds rolled back in, but the sunset hadn't completely faded yet.

Johnson lived dangerously in the early innings, but he managed to escape each time, stranding two runners in the first, three in the second, and another in the third.  In the bottom of the second, a light rain started up.  I like watching games from Section 34, but I know how long it takes to get to the exit ramp beyond Section 36 if it rains, so I figured I’d better make a run for it now while I still could.  I wound up in the standing room behind Section 2 for the top of the third, then moved into an unoccupied seat for the bottom of the third.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Brock Holt slides in safely with a stolen base in the seventh.

Chris Young got the Sox on the board first with a solo homer in the fourth.  But in the top of the fifth, the Blue Jays scored three runs on four hits and a walk.  Dustin Pedroia homered in the sixth to pull the Sox back within a run, and then in the seventh Brock Holt singled, stole second, and scored on Pedey’s double to tie the game.  I had used the seventh inning stretch to move around to empty seats in Section 16 of the infield grandstand.

Toronto threatened in the eighth, with runners at the corners and nobody out, but Pedey took matters into his own hands.  Kevin Pillar hit a sharp grounder to second, where Pedey grabbed it, chased the runner on first back and tagged him himself, and still had time to throw to first to get Pillar out.  All the while, the runner on third couldn’t advance.  Matt Barnes struck out the final batter of the inning to get out of it all unscathed.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Pedey initiates a key double play.

Barnes had pitched the seventh and eighth, and Craig Kimbrel threw a scoreless ninth.  Neither team scored during that time, so the game headed to extras.  Even with the rain delay, it was still before midnight, so if they could find a way to win it in ten, I’d have no problem catching the T to get back to my car.  Since Pedey had already had a homer, a game-tying double, and a great defensive play, I just assumed that he had one more trick up his sleeve and that he’d be the one to win it for us.  He batted in the tenth with a runner aboard, but surprisingly hit into a double play.  On to the eleventh!

Brandon Workman gave up a leadoff double, then a hit to move the runner to third, then a sac fly to give the Jays the lead.  An intentional walk and a double play got him out of it.  As he pitched, a message popped up on the scoreboard saying that the last trains leave Kenmore and Fenway at 12:20.  I used the restroom between innings, figuring that if they could win in the bottom of the eleventh, there’d be just enough time to run down the street and hop on the T.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

JBJ scores the tying run in the eleventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to open the eleventh.  Sandy Leon tried to bunt him over, and the ball bounced high over the third baseman’s head so he reached safely.  Deven Marrero was also asked to bunt, but he couldn’t get one down, and bunted strike three foul.  After Holt struck out, Mookie Betts saved the day with a single that scored Jackie with the tying run, but Xander Bogaerts, pinch-running for Leon, made the third out of the inning trying to advance to third on the play.  At least it was tied up now.  On to the twelfth!

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

Hector Velazquez pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The move to call up two starters for tonight’s game was looking mighty smart right now.  A rested and stretched out Hector Velazquez came on and pitched a 1-2-3 twelfth.  Again I found myself thinking of other late games I had been to when they held the T later than usual because the game was still going.  If they could win it in the twelfth, I’d head right to the T station and probably still be able to get on.  But the Red Sox went down in order, and the game headed to the thirteenth.  That’s when I downloaded the Uber app and got an account set up.  Velazquez threw another quick inning.  One batter singled, but Christian Vazquez threw him out.

In the bottom of the thirteenth, Mitch Moreland opened the inning with a strikeout.  Bradley struck out too, but the wild pitch got past the catcher and he was able to reach base.  Vazquez struck out for the second out of the inning, and Marerro struck out to end it – the first time I’ve witnessed a four-strikeout inning in person.  (And yes, I was still keeping score; I can use the AB, R, H, RBI, and BB columns to fit up to fifteen innings before I’d need to start on a new page.)

Velazquez had another quick inning in the top of the fourteenth, and then Fenway organist Josh Kantor led us in the singing of the fourteenth inning stretch.  The Sox went down in order again in the bottom of the inning, and it was on to the fifteenth.  I had been to one fourteen inning game before, but this was a new record for me.  At this point, I had already missed the T, and I was down in a comfy field box seat behind the Red Sox dugout, so as far as I was concerned it might as well go 20 innings.  Who needs sleep anyway?

Just after 1 am, Velazquez completed another quick scoreless inning.  Pedroia led off the bottom of the inning – I was still convinced he was going to end up the hero – but he popped up to short.  That brought up Hanley Ramirez, who I had watched in batting practice eight hours ago, and he launched one high over the Green Monster to finally win the game.  Rather than douse him with the Powerade bucket during the post-game interview, as had become the custom, they brought the bucket right to the plate, a great time-saving move!

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Gatorade bucket.

Hanley leaps onto home plate, while his tired teammates wait with the Powerade bucket.

I left the park and called for an Uber at 1:15.  My driver showed up at 1:30, and I was back to my car in Brookline at 1:45.  With no traffic, that got me home at 2:30, just enough time to catch four hours of sleep before getting to work at 9:00 the next morning.  (I admit it would have been a lot harder to get up in the morning if they hadn’t won, and I did leave work right at 5:00 so I could take a nap before watching the next night’s game on TV.)  But it was by far the most exciting game I had been to this year.

July 18, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • Share on Facebook

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