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2003: Diary of a Season

Thursday, May 1, Fenway Park, Section 38

Red Sox 6, Royals 5

The day after my last game was one of the more dramatic wins of the year. After trailing 5-0, the Sox rallied to tie it at 5, and then Nomar Garciaparra won it with a home run into the new Green Monster seats in bottom of the ninth. The winning streak was stopped at seven the next day, when they lost the Patriot's Day matinee. The Red Sox hit the road, dropping two of three in Texas, then winning two of three in Anaheim. The magic returned to the games as soon as the Sox came back to Fenway. The Royals were in town, and they were off to a surprising 17-5 start to lead the A.L. Central. But that was before they met up with the Red Sox! The Sox took game one Tuesday night, then won again in dramatic fashion Wednesday. Trailing 4-2 going into the ninth, they put together a rally that included three hit batsmen, and the winning run scored on an error by Kansas City first baseman Mike Sweeney. I was back at Fenway for Thursday night's game.

This game was in the Value Pack I had purchased that included Opening Day, so I was about half-way back in Section 38. The game didn't start off on a good note. First of all, the speakers were still absent from the center field light tower, so I couldn't hear the starting line-ups and my scorecard was out-of-whack all night. Casey Fossum got two quick outs in the first, but then gave up a single and a two-run homer to Sweeney, who was looking to redeem himself after being the goat the previous night. In his past few starts, Fossum had started off well, but usually as soon as he gave up one run, he'd get a little flustered and the flood gates would open. I just figured that would stop happening as he gained more experience. Tonight was no exception. He threw the next pitch wildly, inside to Raul Ibanez. At first I assumed he had hit him, because Fossum and manager Grady Little were both immediately ejected from the game. Apparently the umpires assumed it was retribution from the three hit batsmen the previous night, but no warnings were issued or anything. Now that several months have passed, I can say in a more G-rated manner that I found the whole situation "a bit unjust", but I fear my scorecard from that night needs a PG-13 rating, as I noted at the bottom: "Quite possibly the biggest bunch of BS I've ever witnessed in person!" (And that was much more polite than a lot of the comments I heard in the bleachers that night!)

Steve Woodard took over for Fossum, and I thought it didn't look good for the home nine. But I knew that a lot of times when an opposing pitcher is taken out early it doesn't turn out to be the rout that everyone expects. I hoped that would hold true tonight. (When the first pitch in the bottom of the first was called strike one to Johnny Damon, a guy near me yelled, "That was too close! Toss him!") Later in the first inning, another Sweeney error, Todd Walker's triple, and Manny Ramirez's sac fly tied the game at 2. Woodard pitched well through the fifth, while the Sox took a 3-2 lead. He tired in the sixth, giving up two homers and the lead. Mike Timlin, Jason Shiell, and Brandon Lyon shut the Royals down the rest of the way. In the sixth, Trot Nixon homered, and later that inning Damon was hit by a pitch. I was appalled that the Royals pitcher was not thrown out of the game. It's wrong, just wrong, that they could hit so many of our guys, and we're the side that gets the ejections! Now more than ever I wanted them to win this one for Casey. Happily, the Red Sox tied it in the seventh, and took the lead in the eighth on a double by Walker. When Brandon Lyon came on for the ninth, I was very nervous about the one-run lead holding up. I decided to go with what had worked before, promising, "If Brandon gets this save, I'll never again call him 'Hack-Away Shea'." (Sure, it wouldn't have made any sense for me to call him that anyway, but it worked!) He did get the save, and the Sox had prevailed in a wild and very unjust game.

Saturday, May 3, Fenway Park, Section 14, Box 110

Red Sox 9, Twins 1

PedroThe day after the "Fossum/Toss 'em" game, Minnesota came in. John Burkett gave the Twins a 5-0 head-start, but the Sox scored six runs in the seventh to take the lead, only to see Ramiro Mandoza and Alan Embree give up six runs of their own in the eighth to lose the game. The next day I was back at Fenway with my family, sitting in great seats on the first base side that I had gotten from a business associate. These were the same seats we had had for Derek Lowe's no-hitter the year before, so we made sure to sit in the exact same order. Pedro Martinez was on the mound today, and we were looking forward to another well-pitched game.

It wouldn't turn out to be a no-hitter, as Pedro allowed a hit in the first inning, and a run in the fourth. But he did strike out twelve, and he did so with a very low pitch count, including a seventh inning in which he only needed six pitches. Since the wall behind the back of the bleachers had been lowered, the K-Men had lost their spot to post K's for Pedro's strikeouts. Today, they used a clothesline, but later in the season they were allowed to move to the Green Monster standing room area.

The K-Men cheer for NomarMeanwhile, the Sox took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, and then made it a blowout with a seven-run sixth. The inning had two walks, two Minnesota errors, three singles, and a sac fly, and was highlighted by David Ortiz's three-run double. Ortiz had had very little playing time so far in the season, but this was the day he broke out, going 2-3 with two doubles and three RBI against his former team. The inning also featured Jason Varitek's second stolen base of the game, marking the first time in his career that he's had two in a game.

As Pedro came off the mound at the end of the eighth, everyone gave him a standing ovation, assuming he was done for the day. But I was wishing he'd be allowed to pitch the ninth, since he had only thrown 95 pitches so far, and the Red Sox had an off-day coming up so he'd have an extra day's rest before his next start. Besides, several of his outings this year had been blown by the bullpen, and I didn't want to take any chances. I was rewarded this time, and we got to give him another standing ovation as he did come back for the ninth. He finished with a flourish, striking out the final two batters, and finishing the complete game with an economical 108 pitches.

Sunday, May 4, Fenway Park, Section 36

Twins 9, Red Sox 4

I was back the next day for the finale against the Twins. David Ortiz picked up where he had left off the day before, hitting an RBI double in the first inning. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar knocked in a couple more in the third, and after five innings the Sox were up 4-0. Tim Wakefield had kept the Twins off-balance, allowing only three hits in the first five frames. But the knuckleball must have flattened out in the sixth, because four straight hits followed by a sac fly and a triple combined to tie up the game. Mike Timlin got the final out of the sixth, but couldn't get any outs in the seventh, as four straight batters reached base. Two errors and one more double later, the Twins suddenly had a 9-4 lead. Jason Shiell, Kevin Tolar, and Brandon Lyon each worked a scoreless inning, but the Red Sox weren't able to muster another comeback at the plate.

I was just glad I had been able to get the tickets for the exciting Pedro game on Saturday. If I hadn't gone then and this Sunday game was the only one I went to all weekend, it would have been pretty disappointing. And the bullpen collapse in the seventh inning Sunday further justified my happiness that Grady Little had stuck with Pedro for the complete game Saturday.

Sunday, May 11, Hadlock Field, Portland

Sea Dogs 14, Rock Cats 5

Kevin YoukilisWhile the Red Sox were on the road in Minnesota, I went to Portland, Maine, to see the Red Sox Double-A affiliate Portland Sea Dogs. The Sea Dogs had been affiliated with the Florida Marlins ever since the team had been established. (Kevin Millar's #15 hangs on the wall in recognition of the time he spent there on his way up through the Marlins system. The Sea Dogs plan to similarly honor any Sea Dogs player who goes on to play in the majors with the Red Sox.) This was the first year that the Sea Dogs became a Red Sox affiliate, and is much more appropriate so deep into Red Sox Nation. Over the winter, the team had constructed a large green wall in left field, complete with a Coke bottle and Citgo sign over it. The scoreboard, though not manually-operated, is now located on the left field wall. It adds a nice touch to a clean and inexpensively priced park, and now that it's Red Sox prospects I'm watching, it's fun to go.

Today the Sea Dogs were playing the New Britain Rock Cats, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. I recognized a lot of names from Spring Training, but I was most interested in seeing third baseman Kevin Youkilis (pictured above) and catcher Kelly Shoppach, because they're two of the most highly-touted prospects in the Red Sox system. They each had a hit, but the offensive stars of the day were first baseman Andy Dominique, right fielder Justin Sherrod, and second baseman Tony Schrager. They each had three hits including a homer, and Schrager had 6 RBI. Portland's pitcher that day was Josh Stevens, who allowed only two earned runs in seven innings of work. It wasn't a particularly well-played game, with New Britain making five errors and Portland adding two of its own, but the Sea Dogs won, 14-5.

Hadlock Field

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