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Mother Nature’s Day

Sunday, May 14, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 33

Rays 11, Red Sox 2

The weather forecast wasn’t good for Mother’s Day weekend.  Heavy rain was due in Saturday evening and throughout Sunday.  The Rays do make another trip to Fenway, in September, so they would be able to make up a game if they had to, but they wouldn’t want to make up two.  The Red Sox moved the start of Saturday’s game from 7:10 to 1:05 with the hopes that they could get it in before the rain.  I know they’ve said in the past they try to avoid moving game times earlier if at all possible because of people’s travel plans to get there, so to me this extreme measure meant that they knew there was no way they’d play Sunday, and they wanted to make sure to at least get one game in.  (Or maybe it was just so they wouldn’t have to wait an extra six hours to watch Chris Sale.)  The move paid off; Sale dominated, the offense backed him up with run support, and the rain held off until later.  It rained hard all night, and I expected Sunday’s game to be called around 10 am, saving us all the trip.

It was windy and rainy, even under the roof of Section 33.

It was windy and rainy, even under the roof of Section 33.

In the morning, the Red Sox tweeted that they planned to play, but knowing that there’d be no batting practice to watch, I waited until just before noon to start my drive in.  I found a spot a block down from Kenmore Square, and as I walked up to the ballpark it was down to just a drizzle.  Play ball!

My seat in Section 33 was technically under cover, so it wasn’t as bad as if I had been in the bleachers, but that section is open from behind, and the wind was swirling the mist underneath so that my camera and scorecard were getting rained on.  It was a day game in mid-May, but it was the coldest one I had been to this year (not counting the Frozen Fenway hockey games in January of course).  As the game went on, I added all my layers: knit hat, hooded sweatshirt, scarf over my legs like a blanket.  (I try to avoid gloves, though, because it makes it hard to keep score.)  I’ve gotta give credit to the two hardy New Englanders I saw eating ice cream… but only if they stuck it out till the end of the game like me.

L.L. Bean was an appropriate sponsor of this chilly game. I, for one, was wearing my (special 2013 Red Sox edition) Bean boots.

L.L. Bean was an appropriate sponsor of this chilly game. I, for one, was wearing my (special 2013 Red Sox edition) Bean boots.

And this game wasn’t ending any time soon.  Drew Pomeranz works slowly to start with, and he had already thrown 57 pitches and allowed two runs when he took the field for the top of the fourth.  Suddenly the trainers joined him on the mound, and he was on his way out of the game.  We heard later that it was tightness in his left triceps.  Ben Taylor got all the time he needed to warm up, then came in and gave up another run, putting the Sox down 3-1.

Drew Pomeranz exited after only three innings, leaving the majority of the game in the hands of the bullpen.

Drew Pomeranz exited after only three innings, leaving the majority of the game in the hands of the bullpen.

The Sox clawed some of the way back in the fifth inning, but even that ended in frustration.  They sent 7 men to the plate, and Dustin Pedroia’s single pulled the Sox to within one run.  But Christian Vazquez was thrown out at the plate, and Andrew Benintendi flied out with the bases loaded to end the threat with just one run in.

Pedey stands on first base next to Chris Davis.  The whole pink for Mother's Day thing might have been nicer if they weren't so mish-mash with different shades of pink for the socks compared to the batting gloves, and if they had decided to be consistent with wearing either pink or red sleeves under their jerseys.  It looked pretty ridiculous as it was.

Pedey stands on first base next to Chris Davis. The whole pink for Mother's Day thing might have been nicer if they weren't so mish-mash with different shades of pink for the socks compared to the batting gloves, and if they had decided to be consistent with wearing either pink or red sleeves under their jerseys. It looked pretty silly as it was.

Hanley Ramirez reached on an error in the sixth and singled in the eighth.

Hanley Ramirez reached on an error in the sixth and singled in the eighth.

Hanley made it to third with one out in the sixth.  "Hey, Hanley!" called third base coach Brian Butterfield. "I think you got a little something on your pants." With the muddy field, we had a lot of dirt dogs on the team today.

Hanley made it to third with one out in the sixth. "Hey, Hanley!" called third base coach Brian Butterfield (probably). "I think you got a little something on your pants." With the muddy field, we had a lot of dirt dogs on the team today.

Xander Bogaerts left just enough of his face exposed under the ski mask that he could still blow bubbles with his gum.

Xander Bogaerts left just enough of his face exposed under the ski mask that he could still blow bubbles with his gum.

Mookie Betts takes a swing in the seventh. Even home plate ump Laz Diaz got into the Mother's Day spirit with a pink face mask.

Mookie Betts takes a swing in the seventh. Even home plate ump Laz Diaz got into the Mother's Day spirit with a pink face mask.

At the end of the seventh enough people had left that I was able to move over to Section 29, which was under cover and also had a solid wall behind it, meaning no rainy, gusty wind.  The sky even brightened for a few minutes, causing everyone to shout, “The sun’s coming out!” but it quickly clouded over again.  From the new seat I was able to see the clock over the back of the bleachers and noticed that we were already at the three-and-a-half-hour mark, with two innings still left to play.

Early in the game, the bleachers were colorful.  By the end they had emptied out.

Early in the game (pictured here), the bleachers were pretty colorful. By the end, after four hours of steady rain, they had emptied out.

It’s a good thing my new seat was (slightly) more comfortable, because the game still had a way to go.  After Ben Taylor threw two innings of relief, Fernando Abad got the first two outs of the sixth.  Matt Barnes finished the sixth and stayed in for the seventh, giving up the fourth Tampa run in the process.  Robbie Ross notched a strikeout to end the seventh, completed the eighth by stranding two baserunners, and then came back out for the ninth.  He gave up a run on three hits and managed to get two outs along the way.  With two out and two on and the Sox down 5-2 in the ninth, Heath Hembree came in, and the next four batters went like this: RBI single, RBI single, RBI single, three-run homer.  When the inning mercifully came to a close, seven Tampa runs had crossed the plate, and they now led 11-2.

Robbie Ross was charged with three runs in two innnings of relief.

Robbie Ross was charged with three runs in two innnings of relief.

The bottom of the ninth went quickly, and the game finally ended just after 6:00.  The official time of game was 4:32, just 13 minutes shy of the all-time record for longest 9-inning game (which I also had the dubious pleasure of attending, back in 2006.)  I don’t mind sitting through uncomfortable weather when the game play is good, but there was just nothing good to come out of this one.

May 14, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • 2 Comments

Bean Town

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 7

Red Sox 4, Orioles 2

Two days after my last game I was headed back to Fenway.  (Unfortunately for me the one I missed was another brilliant outing by Chris Sale.)  A co-worker’s nephew had an extra ticket, and he let me use it.  It was another cool night, not as cold as my previous game, but with a steady breeze all night.

The view from Section 7.  It was another cool night, but at least this time there was no rain.

The view from Section 7. It was another cool night, but at least this time there was no rain.

When asked at work, I gave my opinion that all the bean ball business between the Red Sox and Orioles from earlier in the series had run its course.  Even though Sale had thrown behind Manny Machado last night in the latest installment of the drama that had begun when Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia on his way into second base a week earlier, it felt like the whole thing had stretched on long enough and was all played out.

Drew Pomeranz gives a thumbs-up after warming before the game. I wish I could have said the same about his start.

Drew Pomeranz gives a thumbs-up after warming before the game. I wish I could have said the same about his start.

Drew Pomeranz didn’t exactly start the game off on a good note.  The first batter doubled, and the second reached on an error after Marco Hernandez bobbled a grounder to third.  Hernandez was immediately pulled from the game for Josh Rutledge, who had come off the D.L. a week earlier.  Hernandez had made two errors in Monday’s game, too, and at first I wondered if John Farrell couldn’t take it anymore.  It turned out, though, that Marco had suffered a shoulder subluxation, and was added the the D.L. himself the next day.

We've been seeing a little too much of the E5 lately.

We've been seeing a little too much of the E5 lately.

The problem with watching Pomeranz is that he pitches very slowly, and he’s lined up in the rotation to follow Chris Sale, who works so quickly, making the contrast that much more noticeable.  The inning continued with a passed ball and a full-count walk to load the bases.  Pomeranz wound up throwing an astounding 34 pitches in the first inning, and I was having flashbacks to the Daisuke Matsuzaka era.  But like Dice-K, he managed to Houdini his way out of it.  The error and passed ball weren’t his fault, and he struck out Jonathan Schoop to end the inning without any runs.

Quote o’ the day: The guy in front of me turned around at the end of the very long first inning, saw that I was keeping score, and said, “If the whole game goes like this, you’re going to run out of ink.”

I had plenty of time to take lots of pictures of Drew Pomeranz in the first inning.

I had plenty of time to take lots of pictures of Drew Pomeranz in the first inning.

I will say that Pomeranz recovered nicely.  Not only did he escape the first inning without giving up any runs, but he had 1-2-3 innings in both the second and third, throwing only 10 pitches in each frame, so that by the end of the third his pitch count was a respectable 54.  But by then, we had all forgotten about his first inning, given what happened in the second…

Josh Rutledge drove in the Red Sox' first run, and then added a sac fly later.

Josh Rutledge drove in the Red Sox' first run, and then added a sac fly later.

Baltimore pitcher Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts with a pitch leading off the second inning.  It was a 77-mph curveball, which would indicate that there was no intent, but the umpires were on high alert after the bad blood that had been building since the last series between these two teams.  Home plate ump Sam Holbrook ejected Gausman immediately.  (Strangely, manager Buck Showalter was not tossed, and warnings were only issued after the play.)  The new pitcher, Richard Bleier, had all the time he needed to warm up, and Showalter spent the time stomping around the infield and complaining.  When the inning resumed, Mitch Moreland walked, and Josh Rutledge singled to drive Bogaerts in with the first run of the game.

The gameplay may not have been beautiful, but the view from my seat in Section 7 was surprisingly nice.

The gameplay may not have been beautiful, but the view from my seat in Section 7 was surprisingly nice.

The Red Sox scored three more runs in the fourth, thanks to a double by Chris Young and an error by Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy that allowed Bogaerts to reach ahead of him.  I thought Hardy had another error later in the inning when, with runners on second and third, he fielded a grounder and threw home with the throw sailing way over everyone’s reach.  (It turned out that was just scored as a fielder’s choice – he could have thrown to first and retired the runner, but chose to go home.  If they think the run would have scored anyway, they couldn’t charge an error if no one else advanced as a result of the throw being off.)  That all gets noted on my scorecard – maybe I was in danger of running out of ink!

Mitch Moreland singled in the fourth.

Mitch Moreland singled in the fourth.

In the top of the fifth, Pomeranz struck out Adam Jones.  When Jones said something the ump didn’t like, he tossed him too.  Thank you, Sam Holbrook!  The Orioles did finally push across two runs in the sixth, knocking Pomeranz from the game in the process.  Heath Hembree got out of the sixth, and Matt Barnes and Robby Scott took care of the seventh and eighth. (Meanwhile, after Bleier finished four innings of relief, the Orioles had to bring in Ubaldo Jimenez, who was supposed to be tomorrow’s starter, for the final three innings.)

Xander Boagaerts had a busy night.  He was plunked, reached on an error twice, and stole a base.

Xander Boagaerts had a busy night. He was plunked, reached on an error twice, and stole a base.

In the bottom of the seventh, I moved over to some vacated seats in Section 12.  I could have gone further toward the infield, but I actually wanted to sit where I’d have a good view of the outfielders doing Win, Dance, Repeat if the score held up.  This was my fifth game of the year, but I hadn’t seen a win since Opening Day, exactly a month ago.  All that was left was for Craig Kimbrel to close it out, and he had no problem doing just that, with three quick strikeouts preserving the much-needed win.

Kimbrel stares in in his trademark pose.

Kimbrel stares in at the plate in his trademark pose.

Here’s my video of the outfield dance, featuring Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Chris Young:

Last year for the post-win handshakes, Big Papi always stood, shirt untucked, right in front of Farrell and the coaches in front of the dugout.  This year Hanley Ramirez has taken over that spot. I guess he got promoted!

Last year for the post-win handshakes, Big Papi always stood, shirt untucked, right in front of Farrell and the coaches in front of the dugout. This year Hanley Ramirez has taken over that spot. I guess he got promoted!

May 3, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Fenway Parking

Monday, May 1, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Orioles 5, Red Sox 2

As a season ticket holder, I earn rewards points by checking in to games and watching for code words, and there are items we can buy and raffles we can enter with the points.  This year, I entered and won a raffle to “park in the players’ parking lot” at the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness St., near the Gate D entrance, for the May 1st game.  I’ve spent many hours over the years standing across the street from the parking lot before and after big games to watch the players pull in.  They have metal barriers blocking off half of that block of the street, with only the far sidewalk available for pedestrians.  I remember having seen Curt Schilling’s Hummer, David Ortiz’s Lamborghini, Trot Nixon climbing comically out of a Mini Cooper one time, and even Jonathan Papelbon’s dog.  The lot itself is such a small wedge-shaped area that they often park the extra cars on the near sidewalk and along the side of the road in the section that’s blocked off.  I laughed at the thought of my dusty ten-year-old compact car among the players’ fancy rides, and wondered which player would end up with his car parked on the street because they had promised a spot to a fan.

The players' parking lot. They could have squuezed my little car in there!

The players' parking lot. They could have squeezed my little car in there!

The Red Sox mailed me a special permit, and I showed it to the cops and parking lot attendants, who moved the barriers so I could drive in.  I had been imagining posing for some pictures with my car after they drove it into the lot, so I was surprised when the guy parked it along the street in the blocked off area.  Alrighty then.  Well, it was still a good close spot right next to the ballpark that I didn’t have to pay for.  (Of course, I normally park a few miles away and then take the T, so it really only saved me the cost of a round-trip Charlie ticket.)  Since the main gates hadn’t opened yet, I went in the early entrance line at Gate C, which is available for season ticket holders and Red Sox Nation members.

Before the game I had a chance to do some reflecting on the current state of the Sox.

Before the game I had a chance to do some reflecting on the current state of the Sox.

My seat was in the left field grandstand, and a pole blocked the plate.  Luckily the person in the seat next to me never showed, and I was able to move over and see everything.  Despite the calendar now saying May, it was cold enough that I could see my breath, and a little drizzly.

It was May, but this was the coldest game I had been to so far.

Ben Taylor and Chris Young are dressed for a lovely May evening in New England.

It was cold enough that I could see my breath - and the players, including Marco Hernandez, were no exception.

It was cold enough that I could see my breath - and the players, including Marco Hernandez, were no exception.

In the series with the Orioles the previous week in Baltimore, Manny Machado had initiated some bad blood when he slid into second with his feet high, spiking Dustin Pedroia in the knee that he had had surgery on over the winter and knocking him out of the lineup for a few days.  When Matt Barnes threw near Machado’s head later in the series, he was suspended for four games.  Machado, however, was never brought to justice for his role in starting the whole thing, and he was getting soundly booed all night long at Fenway.

As most of his starts have gone this year, Rick Porcello pitched well but didn't get any run support. He gave up 2 runs in 6 innings of work.

As most of his starts have gone this year, Rick Porcello pitched well but didn't get any run support. He gave up 2 runs in 6 innings of work.

Sandy Leon singled in the fifth, but he was stranded.

Sandy Leon singled in the fifth, but he was stranded.

Mitch Moreland was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Mitch Moreland was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Heath Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but then ran into trouble in the eighth.

Heath Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but then ran into trouble in the eighth.

The first six innings were frustrating enough with the lack of offense and the fact that public enemy #1 Machado had clubbed a homer way over the Monster.  It got worse when Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy drilled Mookie Betts in obviously intentional fashion, yet somehow avoided any kind of warning or ejection.  And then in the eighth, the Red Sox completely imploded.  With one out and a runner on, the next three plays all resulted in errors.  There was a throwing error by Hembree, a fielding error by Marco Hernandez at third, and a bad throw by Andrew Benintendi in left.  That was followed by a single and a sacrifice fly, and the Red Sox found themselves down 5-0.

Xander Bogaerts crosses the plate in the bottom of the eighth, scoring the first Red Sox run of the game.

Xander Bogaerts crosses the plate in the bottom of the eighth.

They finally got something going in the bottom of the eighth, when Hernandez and Bogaerts opened the inning with hits.  Marco scored the first Red Sox run on Benintendi’s single.  Then one out later, Hanley Ramirez lined a hit into left, and I turned toward home to capture a shot of the runner(s) crossing the plate.  Bogaerts made it safely across, but when I looked back to the basepaths, Benintendi and Hanley had both wound up on second base.  Oops!  Beni was ruled out, and the chance for a rally was quickly extinguished.  Just to really add insult to injury, Hernandez made another error in the ninth – his second, and the team’s fourth, of the game.

I moved down to a closer seat in the ninth, as a light rain started up.

I moved down to a closer seat in the ninth, as a light rain started up.

I had moved down to a close seat behind third base, so when the game was over it took a few minutes to get through the stream of exiting fans and over to the ladies’ room.  Even with that detour, the advantage to my special parking space came quickly into play.  I took one step out the Gate D doors and saw my car.  I got in and a cop was there motioning me to the left onto Yawkey Way, and when I got to Boylston St. there was another cop waving me on to make that left turn.  Even with cars double parked on Comm. Ave. and having to pull over for an ambulance, I made it to the Mass. Pike headed for home within ten minutes.  It’s sad when the best part of the game is being able to get out of there in a hurry, but I was definitely glad I could.

May 1, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Thank You, Trot

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fitton Field, Worcester

I always say that if I could personally thank every one of the 2004 Red Sox, I would.  Over the years, I have gotten to meet and thank several of the players, and I have a photo of me with the World Series trophy that I’ve been collecting autographs of the members of the ’04 team on ever since Spring Training of 2005.  So when I heard that Trot Nixon, the original dirt dog, was going to be in Worcester, I knew I had to go.

Trot Nixon spoke to Worcester area Little Leaguers.

Trot Nixon spoke to Worcester area Little Leaguers.

The event, open to the public, was held on the Holy Cross campus at Fitton Field, home of Holy Cross’s baseball team and, in the summer, of the Worcester Bravehearts, a team in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.  (They play the Brockton Rox and Nashua Silver Knights, among other local teams, and half the players on each team either grew up in New England or currently attend a college in the area.)  The Bravehearts were promoting ticket sales for their coming games, and the day marked the opening of the Worcester Little League season, with food and activities for the kids.  Besides the mayor and league officials, the speakers included Trot Nixon, a fan favorite (who played his intense style of baseball well before any of the Little League kids were born) and member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.  With the kids lined up in their team uniforms ringing the infield, he talked about how much he loves the game, and encouraged the kids to find time to practice every day.  After the speeches, he signed autographs and posed for pictures with anyone who wanted one.

Thank you, Trot!

Thank you, Trot!

When my turn came, I thanked him for 2004, and added, “And for that walk-off home run in the playoffs in ’03.  I went to that one, and we were hugging random strangers by the end.”  That was Game 3 of the ALDS against Oakland.  The Sox had gone down 0-2 in the series, and it took an eleventh inning pinch-hit home run by Trot to extend the series, which they would eventually come back to win.  It was a crazy game, with bizarre obstruction calls and the play where Eric Byrnes got tagged out by Jason Varitek after he failed to touch the plate.  I was sitting in an obstructed view seat right behind a pole, and really did end up hugging the woman next to me at the end.

Trot's autograph is second from the left in the top row, between Brian Daubach and Lenny DiNardo.

Trot's autograph is second from the left in the top row, between Brian Daubach and Lenny DiNardo.

There are still a bunch of players from 2004 who I haven’t had the pleasure to meet yet, but it was fun to cross another name off the list.

April 29, 2017 • Posted in: Events • No Comments

Can’t Buy A Run

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0

A rainout on Tuesday night pushed all the pitchers back a day, meaning that instead of seeing Drew Pomeranz pitch against the Yankees, I was going to get to witness the artistry of Chris Sale, who was off to a ridiculously dominant start.  Coming into tonight’s game, he had made four starts, going at least seven innings in each, with an ERA of 0.91 and a league-leading 42 strikeouts.  The problem had been run support.  His teammates had provided only four total runs of support while he was on the mound over those four starts, and as a result he had a very unfairly pedestrian-looking 1-1 record.

I always did enjoy a good sale.

I always did enjoy a good sale.

Sale continued his string of dominant performances. At the end of the third, he had six strikeouts and had thrown only 37 pitches.

Sale continued his string of dominant performances. At the end of the third, he had six strikeouts and had thrown only 37 pitches.

(I swear I took some pictures that weren’t of Chris Sale.  They’re in here somewhere…)

There was a buzz in the ballpark based on the night's starting pitcher.

There was a buzz in the ballpark based on the night's starting pitcher.

(OK, so not that one, but here are a few…)

Dustin Pedroia sprints out of the box after hitting a ground ball in the first inning.

Dustin Pedroia sprints out of the box after hitting a ground ball back to the mound in the first inning.

Andrew Benintendi strikes out in the fourth.  The fourth inning ended at 8:12, just one hour into the game.

Andrew Benintendi strikes out to open the fourth. The fourth inning ended at 8:12, just one hour into the game.

Hanley Ramirez picked up two of the Red Sox' three hits in the game, but neither resulted in a run.

Hanley Ramirez picked up two of the Red Sox' three hits in the game, but neither resulted in a run.

Mookie Betts made the defensive play of the day, with a basket catch of a Chase Headley pop fly over near the rolled-up tarp.

Mookie Betts was responsible for the defensive play of the day, with a basket catch of a Chase Headley pop fly over near the rolled-up tarp.

(And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming…)

The K-Men were kept busy recordinf Sale's 10 strikeouts. And look at those stats on the scoreboard at the end of the eighth: 103 pitches, 77 strikes, and a season ERA of 0.72.

The K-Men were kept busy recording Sale's 10 strikeouts. And look at those stats on the scoreboard at the end of the eighth: 103 pitches, 77 for strikes, and his ERA down to 0.72.

As awesome as Sale’s pitching was – and he really is fun to watch – the offense did nothing to help him out.  He pitched just like his other starts, working very quickly, so that the end of the eighth inning came right at the two-hour mark of the game.  That’s fast by any standard, but especially for a Red Sox-Yankees game.  (I once went to a game between these two teams that lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes – the longest 9-inning game in MLB history!)  It was unfortunate when an unearned run crossed the plate for the Yankees in the fourth (single, groundout, passed ball, sacrifice fly).  Sale gave up one more run in the ninth (and was charged with another after he came out), causing his ERA to “skyrocket” all the way up to 1.19.

It ended up the third shutout for the Red Sox offense in theor last seven games.

View from Section 43. The game was so quick that no one left early, so I didn't get to move around to better seats later in the game.

It ended up the third shutout for the Red Sox offense in their last seven games.  It was frustrating to waste such a good start, as Sale now had a mere four total runs of support over his first five starts.  At least it was so fast that the game was over at 9:30, and I was all the way back home at 10:45.

Ready for the punchline?

April 27, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Knuckled Under

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Orioles 12, Red Sox 5

You could say the first week of the season “flu” by, with many key players on the team hit by either influenza, a stomach bug, or a respiratory bug, all of which were circulating through the clubhouse.  Add to that two players on the bereavement list at the same time, and transportation issues when they attempted to return.  Play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien even had to leave one broadcast half-way through due to illness.  But after a road trip to Detroit which caused the Tigers to have the visiting clubhouse fumigated when they left, the team returned to Fenway in much better shape, with the full lineup they envisioned all winter (with the exception of Jackie Bradley, Jr., on the D.L. with a sprained knee).

For me, it was the first game of the year in my familiar Tenth Man Plan seats in Section 43.

Steven Wright warms up before the game.

Steven Wright warms up before the game.

Give 'em the ole knuckleball!

Wright deals a knuckleball.

Unfortunately, Wright’s knuckleball wasn’t exactly knuckling.  He gave up two homers as the Orioles batted around in the first and two more in the second, and the Sox were down 8-0 when he exited the game.  I didn’t have the flu, but I sure felt like puking.

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Chris Young had to chase down a lot of hits all night.  And it could have been worse if Benintendi, filling in in center for JBJ, hadn't made a great diving catch in the fourth that prompted me to nickname him "Andrew Bradley, Jr."

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Chris Young had to chase down a lot of hits all night. And it could have been worse if Benintendi, filling in in center for JBJ, hadn't made an impressive diving catch in the fourth that prompted me to nickname him "Andrew Bradley, Jr."

Ben Taylor replaced Wright in the second, and pitched 3-2/3 innings while only allowing one run.  The rookie came into the game having struck out 4 of the 5 batters he had faced in the majors, and added 3 more Ks.

Ben Taylor replaced Wright in the second, and pitched 3-2/3 innings while only allowing one run. The rookie came into the game having struck out 4 of the 5 batters he had faced in the majors, and added 3 more Ks.

Once they were down 9-0, the Red Sox did try to make a comeback.  The first run scored in the third on a sac fly.  Three more came in the fourth, capped by a homer by Pablo Sandoval.  In the fifth they had the bases loaded with one out, and when Xander Bogaerts drove in their fifth run, that brought the tying run to the plate.  Unfortunately that was as close as they’d get.

Even the mighty Sandy Leon couldn't tie up a four-run game with no one on base.

Even the mighty Sandy Leon couldn't hit the five-run homer we needed to get back in the game.

It was a clear but cool night in my Tenth Man Plan seats.

It was a clear but cool night in my Tenth Man Plan season ticket seats.

When Ben Taylor finished his 3-2/3 innings of relief, Fernando Abad was next, making his first appearance of the season.  My favorite thing about Abad is getting to make “Abad pun” every time he pitches.  Tonight he did well, which I called “Agood Abad outing,” and then when Joe Kelly allowed three more runs in the eighth, “This game just went from Abad to worse.”  (Sorry, but with a game like this, I had to do something to stay amused.)

Left-hander Robby Scott pitched well in the ninth.

Left-hander Robby Scott pitched well in the ninth.

The game's not official until I get a picture of Xander Bogaerts blowing a bubble with his gum.  It's kind of like trying to capture Dustin Pedroia in the air when he does his trademark hop before each pitch.  Come to think of it, I didn't get a good picture of the "Pedey hop" tonight, so does that mean this game doesn't count?

The game's not official until I get a picture of Xander Bogaerts blowing a bubble with his gum. It's kind of like trying to capture Dustin Pedroia in the air when he does his trademark hop before each pitch. Come to think of it, I didn't get a good picture of the "Pedey hop" tonight, so does that mean this game doesn't count?

The Red Sox retired numbers light the way to the Yawkey T Station. I don't normally walk past them after a game, but tonight I did.  They're going to need to add a 34 later in the season.

The Red Sox retired numbers light the way to the Yawkey T Station. I don't normally walk past them after a game, but tonight I decided to. They're going to need to add a 34 later in the season.

April 12, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • No Comments

Game 1 A.D.

Monday, April 3, 2017 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

Every year, I make the same tweet on the morning of the home opener:

Though this marked my 17th Fenway Park Opening Day, there were a couple of things different this year: they opened the season at home for a change (2002, ’09, and ’10 being the other times since I started going), and this was the first in a long time without the services of David Ortiz.  While I was going to miss the irreplaceable Big Papi, Year 1 A. D. (After David) brought a young, exciting team, and opening at home meant we got to see reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello on the mound.  I got to Fenway around 10:30 and made a couple of laps around the outside of the ballpark.

Obligatory shot of the Fenway facade on Opening Day.

Obligatory shot of the Fenway façade early on Opening Day.

Fans stream past the Cask & Flagon on their way up from Kenmore Square.

Fans stream past the Cask 'n Flagon on their way up from Kenmore Square.

The back of the center field scoreboard as seen from Lansdowne St.  I got in the early entrance line for Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members that forms at Gate C and went in at 11:35.

The back of the center field scoreboard as seen from Lansdowne St. I got in the early entrance line for Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members that forms at Gate C and went in at 11:35.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. takes batting practice. It was still cool in the morning, but the sun on the seats of the Green Monster felt great. Too bad my seat for the game was in the shade!

Jackie Bradley, Jr., takes batting practice. It was still cool in the morning, but the sun felt great as we watched B.P. from the seats of the Green Monster. Too bad my seat for the game was in the shade!

Happy New Year, '17!

Happy New Year, '17!

Chris Sale got an extended ovation when he was announced in the starting lineups. It was one of the biggest of the day, along with Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello, and Mookie Betts (although that one was a "Moooooooo!" so it's hard to compare.)

Chris Sale got an extended ovation when he was announced in the starting lineups. It was one of the biggest of the day, along with Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello, and Mookie Betts (although that one was a "Moooooooo!" so it's hard to compare).

We pretty much knew the Patriots would be involved in the opening ceremny as they've won the Super Bowl a time or four before.  This time it was Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, James White, Rob Gronkowski, and Bob Kraft who emerged from behind the American flag, carrying the team's five Lombardi trophies.

We pretty much knew the Patriots would be involved in the opening ceremny as they've won the Super Bowl a time or four before. This time it was Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, James White, Rob Gronkowski, and Bob Kraft who emerged from behind the American flag, carrying the team's five Lombardi trophies.

When they got to the infield, we finally got a break in the case of who stole Tom Brady’s historic Super Bowl LI game shirt.  But don’t worry, the thief was chased down and apprehended by Brady himself.  Following is a slide show of the still pictures I took as it all unfolded:

Once the five Patriots said, “Play ball!” the game was underway.  Rick Porcello picked up right where he left off at the end of the ’16 season, retiring the side in order in the first on just 11 pitches.  In the second, the Pirates got their first baserunner, who was promptly gunned down by Sandy Leon as he tried to steal.  “He’s not even our best defensive catcher!” I yelled, not as a slight to Sandy, who’s a good defensive catcher in his own right, but as a compliment to Christian Vazquez on the bench.  In the fourth, Jackie Bradley made a long running catch deep into the triangle, a step shy of the bullpen, before banging into the wall.  Because it was the third out, we were able to keep cheering right into the inning break.  An inning later, at the half-way point of the game, it was still scoreless, as Pirates ace Gerrit Cole kept the Red Sox off the board.

Por-CY-llo was brilliant in the first 6 innings, and finished with a line of 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K.

Por-CY-llo was brilliant in the first 6 innings, and finished with a line of 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K.

One small change at Fenway this year is that the dugouts go three feet further out than before. That's enough room to put a second bench in behind the first step, but most players spent the game leaning against the railing.

One small change at Fenway this year is that the dugouts go three feet further out than before. That's enough room to put a second bench in behind the first step, but most players spent the game leaning against the railing.

Another change is the new video board in the right field roof area where the Cumberland Farms sign used to be. It was really helpful to me in the left field grandstand, because I was so far back that that was the only board I could see.  It had batter/pitcher info like the side one in center over the camera area.

Another change is the new video board in the right field roof area where the Cumberland Farms sign used to be. It was really helpful to me in the left field grandstand, because I was so far back that it was the only board I could see. It had batter/pitcher info like the side one in center field over the camera area.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Red Sox put together a rally.  JBJ hit a two-out triple, and then Pablo Sandoval beat out an infield hit to drive in the first run.  Sandy Leon followed with a bunt toward an unmanned third base, and made it safely to first.  Dustin Pedroia singled in the second run, and then Andrew Benintendi blasted a three-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen.

Andrew Benintendi provided the big offensive blast of the day.  He still qualifies as a rookie, and wasted no time getting started on making his case for Rookie of the Year.

Andrew Benintendi provided the big offensive blast of the day. He still qualifies as a rookie, and wasted no time getting started on making his case for Rookie of the Year.

Xander Bogaerts had a good day at the plate, too.  He had two hits and two stolen bases.  That puts him on pace for 324 SB; Opening Day math is fun!

Xander Bogaerts had a good day at the plate. He had two hits and two stolen bases. That puts him on pace for 324 SB - Opening Day math is fun!

Porcello got a nice ovation as he walked off the field in the top of the seventh.

Porcello got a nice ovation as he walked off the field in the top of the seventh.

Powered by the five-run fifth, all the Red Sox had to do was hold the lead.  Matt Barnes got the final two outs of the seventh, although he did let a couple of inherited runners score.  Robby Scott came in to start the eighth, threw one pitch which was grounded to second for the first out of the inning, and then gave way to Heath Hembree for the next two outs.  In the ninth, Craig Kimbrel put two runners on, but struck out two, before getting the final out on a foul popup to first.  With that, the Red Sox showed that they had good pitching, good defense, and just enough timely hitting to win games in the post-Ortiz era.  All that was left was to see whether “Win Dance Repeat,” the outfielders’ celebratory dance, would return in some form for the new season.  Here’s the latest version of their victory moves:

Arias Wine

Thursday, March 23, 2017 – Sturbridge, MA

With a little over a week to go till Opening Day, I heard about an event in Sturbridge, Mass.  David Ortiz was launching a brand of wines, named Arias after his mother, and the Yankee Spirits store had a meet & greet event planned.  What made me jump at this chance was that everyone who bought a case of Arias wine would get a picture taken with Big Papi.  While I’ve been lucky to get his autograph before in Spring Training, and I’ve been able to get a picture with plenty of players over the years, I’ve never had one with him, and he’s one of my all-time favorites.  I had already purchased a “Big Papi Love” t-shirt to support the David Ortiz Children’s Fund a month earlier, so I even knew what I’d be wearing that day.

I guess you could call us the Papi-razzi.

The cameras came out when the Large Father entered. I guess you could call us the Papi-razzi.

I bought my ticket online in advance, then took the day off from work and made sure to get there early.  There were 180 people guaranteed a spot, but he was only supposed to be there an hour, meaning just 20 seconds per person to meet him and take the picture.  Even though I was near the front of the line, they did whisk everyone though so quickly that there was barely time to face forward and smile before they called the next person up.  I did manage to say, “Thank you for everything, Papi.  You totally changed what it means to be a Red Sox fan.”

I was just a little excited to meet Big Papi.

I was just a little excited to meet Big Papi.

He signed one bottle and handed it to us, and then we went through another line to pick up the rest of the case.  The case contained three bottles each of merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.  You can get your bottle at ariaswine.com.

Cheers!

Cheers!

March 23, 2017 • Posted in: Events • 1 Comment

Road Trip to Port Charlotte

Sunday, February 26, 2017 – Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Rays 7, Red Sox 3

Today was the first road game for the Red Sox, a short drive north to Port Charlotte to take on the Rays.  It was also my last game before heading much further back north.  We know going in that for road games in Spring Training, especially this early on, teams are expected to bring just four guys who are projected to be on the major league roster, filling in the rest of the spots with minor leaguers.  Today the four were Brock Holt, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Fernando Abad.  Blake Swihart was there too, but he’ll most likely start the year in Pawtucket.  The rest of the starting lineup were Triple A guys, and they were all eventually replaced by Double A (or lower) guys.

Charlotte Sports Park on a sunny Sunday.

Charlotte Sports Park on a sunny Sunday.

The game was started by Hector Velazquez, who just signed with the Red Sox last week after playing in the Mexican League for the last three years.  The 28-year-old had a quick first inning but labored a bit in the second. He ended up throwing 32 pitches over 2 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4.

The game was started by Hector Velazquez, who just signed with the Red Sox last week after playing in the Mexican League for the last three years. The 28-year-old had a quick first inning but labored a bit in the second. He ended up throwing 32 pitches over 2 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4.

Brock Holt manned shortstop and went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and a hit-by-pitch.

Brock Holt manned shortstop and went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and a hit-by-pitch.

Andrew Benintendi's hair also made it into the game.

Andrew Benintendi's hair also made it into the game.

Rusney Castillo was there, too, but his #38 uniform jersey didn't make the trip, so he had to wear a leftover #80. (My brother, who was watching on TV, told me the NESN announcers called it a "wardrobe malfunction.")

Rusney Castillo was there, too, but his #38 uniform jersey didn't make the trip, so he had to wear a leftover #80. (My brother, who was watching on TV, told me the NESN announcers referred to it as a "wardrobe malfunction.")

Not a lot went right for the Red Sox in this game.  They got in a 4-0 hole and only got going offensively in the seventh when they finally broke through for three runs.

Deven Marrero scores the Red Sox' third run of the seventh inning.  But look out, the throw has just come in to third, and Rusney Castillo is about to get caught up in a rundown.

Deven Marrero scores the Red Sox' third run of the seventh inning. But look out, the throw has just come in to third, and Rusney Castillo is about to get caught up in an inning-ending rundown trying to extend past second.

The subs for both teams included lots of players borrowed from minor league camp.  For the Rays, they were the guys without names on their backs.  For the Red Sox, they duplicated uniform numbers of guys we knew.  I do follow our minor league teams, so many of the names were familiar to me.  I felt like I was saying “we saw this guy on the Sea Dogs last year” a lot.  One guy I was excited to see was Kyri Washington, who came in to play right field in the bottom of the seventh.  I felt like Peter Gammons when I recalled that we had seen him play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League at a game in Hyannis in 2014, and that he had made it as far as Single A Greenville last season.  I always keep score when I watch a Cape League game for that very reason, and I’ve been tracking the players I saw on both teams ever since to see who got drafted and how far they went.  Today, that research finally paid off!

Channeling my inner Peter Gammons: I saw Kyri Washington play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League back in 2014.

Channeling my inner Peter Gammons: I saw Kyri Washington play for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League back in 2014. And now, here he was in the eighth inning of a Spring Training road game.

The Rays had their share of minor leaguers too. They even had two number 74s in the starting lineup, batting back-to-back.

The Rays had their share of minor leaguers too. They even had two number 74s in the starting lineup, batting back-to-back.

The game ended as a 7-3 loss, and now tomorrow I have to fly back to Boston.  I won’t get to see these guys again until Opening Day on April 3.  (I suppose technically I won’t see many of the players from today’s game until July, when I make my annual trip to watch the Sea Dogs.)  Until then, I’m going to end with another picture from last Tuesday, when my all-time favorite player put in an appearance:

Pedro!

Pedro!

Home Whites

Saturday, February 25, 2017 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Red Sox 8, Twins 7

Saturday brought the third game of the spring calendar, and the first where the team was wearing their home white uniforms.  Again we arrived in the morning before the gates opened and went around back to see what was going on.  It was the usual drills – outfield practice, PFP and sprints for the pitchers, and batting practice.  Mostly we saw the same players we had watched over the past couple of days, and we added an autograph from Rusney Castillo.

Allen Craig and Josh Rutledge take B.P. under the backdrop of the Green Monster-sized fence on Field 1.

Allen Craig and Josh Rutledge take B.P. under the backdrop of the Green Monster-sized fence on Field 1.

This game got off to a much better start than yesterday’s.  Roenis Elias retired the Twins in order in the first and then the Red Sox jumped out to an early lead.  Dustin Pedroia, in his first game of the spring, led off with a double, Mookie Betts singled, and then Hanley Ramirez doubled in one run and Mitch Moreland drove in another.  One inning in, and it had already become my favorite game of the year!

It's not truly baseball season until Pedey gets in a game and does his trademark hop.

It's not truly baseball season until Pedey gets in a game and does his trademark hop.

Mookie Betts takes a lead off third base. He scored the first run of the game on Hanley's double.

Mookie Betts takes a lead off third base. He scored the second run of the game on Moreland's groundout.

Elias gave up a solo homer in the second, but everything was fine until Tyler Thornburg was charged with five runs while only getting two outs in the third.  Matt Barnes had to come in to finish Thornburg’s inning and stayed to complete one of his own, but he gave up another homer in the process, and the Sox found themselves down 7-2.

Tyler Thornburg's outing was as painful to watch as this pose looks.  But apparently he's one of those guys who has followed a really bad spring with a very good season.

Tyler Thornburg's outing was as painful to watch as this pose looks. But apparently he's one of those guys who is able to follow a really bad spring with a very good season, or at least that's what he did last year.

Luckily the Red Sox were able to chip away at the deficit.  They scored three runs in the fourth on doubles by Chris Young and Christian Vazquez (and with the assistance of an error by the Twins).  They added another run in the fifth on Pablo Sandoval’s single.

Hanley's hair flaps in the breeze as he swings.

Hanley's hair flaps in the breeze as he takes a big swing.

Speaking of flowing moss, Robbie Ross pitched a perfect sixth.

Speaking of flowing moss, Robbie Ross pitched a perfect sixth.

And while we're on the subject, Heath Hembree and his long locks took the mound in the seventh.  He also pitched a scoreless inning, but that was thanks to a runner being gunned down at the plate by left fielder Allen Craig.

And while we're on the subject, Heath Hembree and his long locks took the mound in the seventh. He also pitched a scoreless inning, but that was thanks to a runner being gunned down at the plate by left fielder Allen Craig.

Finally, in the sixth, the Red Sox tied the game on a double by first base prospect Sam Travis.

A pitchers' duel it was not.

A pitchers' duel it was not.

By the time the shadows grew long at JetBlue Park, there was not a cloud to be found in the sky.

By the time the shadows crept onto the field at JetBlue Park, there was not a cloud to be found in the sky.

The game was slow-paced (despite not having any intentional walks, if you can believe that) but it was worth it in the eighth when Deven Marrero led off with a double.  Later in the inning, Brian Bogusevic hit an RBI single to drive him in and give the Sox an 8-7 lead.

Brian Bogusevic takes a lead off first after driving in the go-ahead run.

Brian Bogusevic takes a lead off first after driving in the go-ahead run.

Non-roster invitee Austin Maddox got quickly through the ninth to nail down the save, and just like that it was back to being my favorite game of the year again!

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