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2003: Diary of a Season

Sunday, June 29, Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 11, Marlins 7

Derek Lowe The next day the Red Sox finished their four-game sweep of the Tigers, and then Friday night the Marlins came to town. The Red Sox had a record-setting night, scoring 14 runs in the first inning - a major-league-record ten before the first out was recorded. Johnny Damon tied a major league record with three hits in an inning, and became the only player ever to hit a single, a double, and a triple in the same inning. Together, the team had a franchise-record-tying 28 hits, and wound up winning 25-8. The Marlins took offense at what they thought was the Red Sox "running up the score" because of a few sacrifice flies near the end of the game. They drilled David Ortiz, who had had a towering home run in the second inning, in the knee, and Red Sox pitcher Hector Almonte threw the first pitch of the next inning behind Andy Fox. Marlins manager Jack McKeon blasted the Red Sox following the game, questioning their integrity. He singled out Todd Walker, who had scored on one of the sac flies, and accused the Sox of "rubbing it in" and "piling on" runs. Personally, I can see how bunting or stealing would be taboo with a large lead, but the Red Sox were leading the league in sacrifice flies at the time, and as Walker said later, it's the runner at third's responsibility to help out the batter, who would otherwise be charged with an out. What had offended me even more than McKeon's comments was when Grady Little apologized the next day instead of sticking up for Walker and the rest of his team. (And a week later, the Marlins scored over 20 runs against the Braves, but I don't remember him apologizing.)

On Saturday, the Sox blew a 9-2 lead, giving up four runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth to lose 10-9. Sunday, I was back at Fenway, along with my family. Todd Walker got the game off on a good note with a two-run homer in the first. "Grady better not apologize for that!" I yelled. The Marlins tied it in the top of the second, but in the bottom of the inning Gabe Kapler came to the plate. He had just been picked up by the Red Sox, and had had a fabulous debut in Saturday's game, going 4-5 with a single, two doubles, and a triple. In his first at-bat today, he picked up where he had left off, with a home run.

Kapler's stats The Marlins tied it again in the third, but in the fourth, Trot Nixon hit a home run off the ledge on the top face of the Green Monster. We got to boo Jack McKeon when he came out to argue, but the decision was upheld and replays I watched later confirmed it. On the next homestand, a red line was painted across the top of the Monster to better delineate what constituted a home run. "Look out, Trot. Grady's gonna make you apologize!" we yelled. Kapler followed with a single and Bill Mueller's triple knocked in another run. "Pile it on!" yelled my father. The next inning they did. David Ortiz singled, Kevin Millar walked, and Nixon singled in a run. Kapler followed with a three-run home run, his second homer of the day. He was now 7-8 since joining the Sox, good for an .875 average.

After Florida scored two runs in the top of the sixth, Walker hit his second homer of the day. "Better hold up at third, Todd," my brother cautioned. "It wouldn't be polite to go all the way around on just one hit!" In the bottom of the eighth, Jason Varitek hit the Red Sox' sixth home run of the afternoon. (When Damon followed with a walk and Walker singled him to third with only one out, my brother yelled, "How about a sac fly?") The Marlins got one more run in the ninth, but the Red Sox hung on for an 11-7 win.

Thursday, July 17, Fenway Park, Section 36

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 2

After the successful homestand against the Tigers and Marlins, the Red Sox went on their longest road trip of the year. They lost two of three in Tampa Bay, split a four-game series in New York, swept a three-game series in Toronto, and won two of three in Detroit. The road trip was followed by the All-Star Game, where the Red Sox representatives were Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Varitek, who was voted on by the fans for the final roster spot. The American League won the game, giving the A.L. home-field advantage in the World Series.

Center field view The next home game for the Red Sox happened to be on my birthday. Since I was celebrating the big three-oh, I decided to invite a bunch of my friends to the game with me. Unfortunately, not many of my friends are Red Sox fans, but they were good sports and agreed to go anyway. Between college-sponsored trips to Fenway and vacations taken since graduating, I've dragged them all to a game or two at some point in the past.

One of my friends paid to have my name on the scoreboard with a Happy Birthday message, but other than that, the game itself didn't turn out to be just what I've always wanted. Derek Lowe gave up a run in the second inning, and then in the fourth he loaded the bases with no outs. It looked promising when he struck out the next two batters and had a 3-2 count on Reed Johnson, but Johnson ended up ripping a three-run double. The Red Sox had knocked Toronto starter Roy Halladay around earlier in the year, but tonight they couldn't do much of anything against him. David Ortiz's solo homer and Jason Varitek's RBI single were all they got, and Halladay pitched a complete game. It was Lowe's first loss of the year at home. As we left Fenway, I told my friends they're off the hook for a return trip until I turn 40.

Monday, July 21, Fenway Park, Section 26

Red Sox 14, Tigers 5

The Red Sox wound up splitting their four-game series with the Blue Jays and then began a two-game set with the Tigers. My friend wanted to take me to a game as a birthday gift separate from the group birthday game, so tonight we had good infield grandstand seats on the third base side. John Burkett was pitching, but this year every time I had gone to a game that he pitched, he had done well.

This game turned out to be much more festive. The Red Sox batted around in the second, scoring five runs. The big hits came from Bill Mueller, Jeremy Giambi, and Todd Walker. Then they batted around again in the third, scoring seven more runs. Manny Ramirez started the inning with a homer and ended it with an RBI single. (He was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.) In between, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Todd Walker, and Nomar Garciaparra all knocked in runs. Burkett appeared to tire in the fifth, when Detroit finally got through for a few runs, but by then we were so far ahead that it didn't make me nervous. Casey Fossum pitched the final four innings to pick up a save despite the lopsided score. The scoreboard even showed the Yankees losing to the Blue Jays 8-0.

A festive Fenway What made me the happiest was the Fenway atmosphere. Even though it was a Monday night against an uninspiring opponent with Burkett pitching, the park was full. And even though they had had a big lead early on, no one was leaving. When Fossum got the second out of the ninth inning, everyone stood up clapping in anticipation of the final out. The batter lined a run-scoring single, but we stayed standing. As soon as the final out was made on a fly ball to right field, a big cheer went up, and we high-fived each other before leaving. It was becoming apparent that pennant fever was gripping the Hub!

As we rode back on the crowded subway, we had a conductor who kept the mood light. Normally they just mumble the names of the stops, and a lot of times they don't even do that. But our driver tonight started off by asking how the game went and telling us he hated the Yankees. He opened with, "Derek Jeter is a girlie-man. Jason Giambi eats sissy-biscuits. And Alfonso Soriano likes to frolic in the daisies." With a captive audience (literally), he went right into his material: "Electricity can be dangerous... My daughter stuck a penny in a light socket the other day... And if you don't think money can go far these days, you should have seen her fly across the floor... Of course I had to ground her... But what do you expect - I am a conductor." When we came to the Copley stop, he announced, "Copley is a stop with a lot of significance for me... This is the first place I ever ran into the back of the train in front of me... I got a stern talking-to... And a big scrape on my arm... No, actually, I'm just kidding. It wasn't the first time." When the whole train-load of people groaned, he added, "The good news is I've started seeing a psychiatrist. The bad news is I'm the only one who can see him." A lot of the Green Line trains only go as far as Park Street after the game, and I switch there to one that goes a few stops further. Normally when we pull in, we hear a muddled "Parkstreetlaststop," if that. Tonight we were sent off with, "It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Park Street is the final stop for this train."

Wednesday, July 23, Fenway Park, Section 34

Red Sox 10, Devil Rays 4

On Tuesday the Red Sox beat the Tigers again, and on Wednesday I was back at Fenway. It was Nomar Garciaparra's thirtieth birthday. The Red Sox played the Devil Rays on his birthday last year, too, and he hit three home runs including a grand slam to lead the Sox to a 22-4 win. (They played a doubleheader that day, and I went to the nightcap, but they lost that game 5-4.) I hoped this year Nomar would be similarly successful.

Happy birthday, Nomar Tim Wakefield's only baserunner through the first three innings was a harmless walk, and Trot Nixon got the scoring started for the Red Sox when he led off the third with a home run. Tampa Bay tied it 1-1 in the fourth, but the Red Sox were back at it in the bottom of the fourth. Nomar flied out to left, then Manny Ramirez singled. David Ortiz hit a fly to center for the second out of the inning. With Bill Mueller at the plate, Manny stole second. It was good he did, because Mueller hit a ground rule double and Trot struck out to end the inning. Manny scored to give the Sox a 2-1 lead, but he wouldn't have if he hadn't stolen the base. An RBI triple by Todd Walker padded the lead in the fifth, but the Devil Rays crept to within one run again in the sixth.

Wakefield allowed two solo home runs in the seventh, giving the Devil Rays a 4-3 lead. Nomar was 0-2 with a walk, and this was starting to look like the second game on his birthday last year. But it didn't take long to turn around.

Doug Mirabelli reached on an infield single to start the bottom of the seventh, and Gabe Kapler came in to pinch-run. Johnny Damon followed with a homer, reclaiming the lead for Boston. Next was Walker, who hit a double. After Nomar grounded back to the pitcher, Manny was intentionally walked. David Ortiz hit a double to score Walker and move Manny to third. Mueller walked, loading the bases for Trot Nixon. He hit a grand slam into the bleachers, his second home run of the night - and it wasn't even his birthday! Jeremy Giambi grounded out for the second out, and Kapler was up. It's not often that a player who enters the game as a pinch-runner gets to bat later in the inning. He walked, but the inning ended a batter later when Johnny grounded out. The seven-run seventh had given the Sox a 10-4 lead.

In the top of the eighth, we got our first look at newly-acquired lefty reliever Scott Sauerbeck. The Red Sox had traded Brandon Lyon and prospect Anastacio Martinez to Pittsburgh for him, and this was his debut with his new team. He was wearing number 48 that night, although he ended up changing to 47 a couple of weeks later. He walked one batter and hit another, but got out of the inning without allowing any runs. B.K. Kim finished up the game with a 1-2-3 ninth. Birthday Boy Nomar wound up being the only Red Sox starter who didn't get a hit, but by scoring a lot of runs late, the Red Sox proved there were bullpens out there worse than their own.

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