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2003: Diary of a Season

Sunday, July 27, Fenway Park, Section 42

Red Sox 6, Yankees 4

Fenway sunset

The day after Nomar's birthday, the Sox and Devil Rays played a matinee, so I had to follow along over the internet at work. It turned out to be one I wouldn't mind missing. Ramiro Mendoza had been moved into the rotation in early July when Byung-Hyun Kim went to the bullpen. Mendoza had one good start against the Yankees early in the month, but it was all downhill after that. His latest outing was dreadful, a 15-9 loss. The Yankees came to town on Friday. Pedro pitched well, but B.K. gave up the deciding run in the ninth, and they lost 4-3. On Saturday, John Burkett left with a 3-0 lead, but the bullpen gave up four runs, and it took David Ortiz's double off the Green Monster in the bottom of the ninth to bring a 5-4 victory. I had a ticket to Sunday's game, which had been chosen for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. I was in Section 42, right above the ramp that comes up from the concourse. Because I was over the ramp, there were no seats directly in front of me, but I was still close enough to have a good view. And luckily, I was also seated among a bunch of other Red Sox fans. There's nothing I hate more than having to sit next to Yankee fans, but at least tonight I didn't have to worry about that.

Derek Lowe gave up a solo homer to Jason Giambi in the top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases when Jeff Weaver hit Nomar Garciaparra and then walked Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but they were all stranded. In the seond inning, Lowe threw inside to the first batter, Hideki Matsui, and the umpires deemed it intentional, issuing warnings to both teams. The Yankees got another run in the third, then one more in the sixth, for a 3-0 lead. The Sox had done surprisingly little against Weaver, who was usually very hittable.

In the fifth inning, a drunk Yankee fan holding another beer staggered up the ramp, and a guy in the stands near the base of the ramp leaned over the railing and shoved him. The Yankee fan threw his beer into the stands and was escorted off by security. The guy sitting next to me knew I was keeping score and asked, "How do you score that?" I thought he meant what was going on on the field (silly me) which was a fly ball to right by Johnny Damon. There was nothing complicated about that. But he added, "The beer throw." "Well," I answered, "I guess that'd be a 'BT'." As security led the offender off and then returned for the guy who had shoved him, the guy next to me remarked, "He's getting tossed." I added, "Then that's a 'BTT'." He asked if I was keeping track of how many Yankee fans and how many Red Sox fans had been thrown out. I hadn't been, but started making note of it. There were two more of each, at least in my section, by the end of the game.

The Red Sox trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh. Kevin Millar struck out for the first out of the inning. Trot Nixon walked, and Bill Mueller was hit by a pitch. The Yankees brought Chris Hammond in from the bullpen, so I assumed Weaver had been ejected for hitting Mueller after the warnings had been issued. I found out later, though, that he had not been tossed, and it was just a routine pitching change. Whatever the reasoning, it worked out well for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek came up with the chance to do something big. A lot of his hits lately had been dramatic, so naturally I wanted a home run now. "Tie it up, Tek!" I yelled. I admit I say that a lot, but this time I was right. He homered over the Green Monster, tying the game! Damon followed with a homer just past the foul pole in right field, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead. Hammond was replaced by Armando Benitez, who didn't fare any better. Walker singled, and Damian Jackson came in to pinch-run. Nomar grounded out, and Manny was intentionally walked. That brought up Ortiz, the hero of the previous day's game. Benitez was replaced by another of the Yankees' recent acquisitions, 46-year-old Jesse Orosco. Ortiz belted his first triple of the year, scoring Jackson and Ramirez. Millar was intentionally walked before Trot popped up to finally end the inning.

Now all that was left was to hold onto the 6-3 lead. Casey Fossum had relieved Lowe in the seventh. Scott Sauerbeck started the eighth, but walked the first batter. Mike Timlin was called on, and he got out of the inning. B.K. Kim came on for the ninth. A walk, a strikeout, an infield hit, and a fielder's choice scored one more run for the Yankees. With two outs and a runner on second, Jorge Posada came up. He hit a flair down the left field line that looked like it would be trouble when it dropped in. Manny had to run a long way, but he got there just in time, sliding to make the dramatic catch and end one of the more exciting games I had been to this year.

August 1-3, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

After taking two of three from the Yankees, the Sox moved on to Texas. They only won one game in the series with the Rangers, but it was memorable. Switch-hitting Bill Mueller hit two grand slams (the first player in major league history to do so from both sides of the plate) and a solo home run to lead the Sox to a 14-5 win. At the trading deadline on July 31, the Red Sox traded Freddy Sanchez to Pittsburgh for Jeff Suppan, Brandon Lyon, and Anastacio Martinez. Lyon and Martinez had been traded to the Pirates a couple of weeks earlier in the Scott Sauerbeck deal, but once Lyon got there, the Pirates had questions about the health of his arm and were sending him back now. Suppan had started his career with the Red Sox in 1995, and had since pitched for Arizona, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. I wasn't sure that this was the blockbuster trading-deadline deal that would put us over the top - rumors about acquiring Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez had sounded more appealing - but it did mean Ramiro Mendoza wouldn't be in the rotation any more.

The next day I traveled with my parents to Baltimore for the Red Sox' three-game series against the Orioles. I had been to Camden Yards once before, but this was their first trip. The pictures and accounts of the games we saw are on the Road trip to Baltimore page.

Wednesday, August 6, Fenway Park, Section 29

Red Sox 4, Angels 2

Evening at the Fens

After the weekend series in Baltimore, the Red Sox had Monday off. Tuesday they returned to Fenway for Jeff Suppan's first start since being traded back to the Sox. He gave up seven runs in five innings, but the Sox rallied for a dramatic 10-9 win over the Angels. The next night I was back at Fenway for a Pedro Martinez start. My seat was in the bleachers, but my friend had a pair in the grandstand behind third base, and the person originally going with her couldn't make it, so she let me sit with her. It's exciting to watch Pedro from anywhere in the park, but my seat tonight was a great vantage point to watch The Best Pitcher on the Planet work his magic. The weather was great, too, a perfect summer night.

Pedro mowed through the Anaheim line-up, allowing only four hits - all of them singles - through the first five innings. He used only 62 pitches through the first five frames, so if he kept up that pace, he could go deep into the game. Meanwhile, the Red Sox got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Manny Ramirez singled to start off the inning, and David Ortiz followed with a triple. He was on a streak where his last ten hits were all for extra bases. Kevin Millar then knocked in Ortiz with a sac fly. In the next inning, Nomar Garciaparra extended the Sox' lead to 3-0 with his twentieth home run of the season. The Angels put two doubles together in the sixth to score their first run, but Pedro got out of the inning on just three more pitches. As he went further into the game, the intesity grew. (And no one had to tell us when there were "TWO STRIKES!" like they did in Baltimore. After a weekend on the road, it felt so good to be home, in Fenway, with 35,039 other crazy fans!)

Changing the scoreboard The near-perfect evening already featured great pitching and timely hitting. All that was left to see was outstanding defense, so that's what came next. Adam Kennedy led off the seventh inning with a long drive toward the center field end of the Green Monster. It would have been a double, but Johnny Damon leaped and made what would later be called his best catch of the year. He smacked into The Wall as he jumped to make the grab up against the middle crossbar of the "B" in the Bob's Stores sign on the Monster. The catch electrified the already intense crowd, and we gave him a long standing ovation. It also helped save a run, since the Angels followed with a single and a double. Both runners were stranded, but one or two runs could have scored if Kennedy's hit had dropped in. In the eighth, Pedro continued to thrill the crowd, as he struck out the side and brought his strikeout total for the night to ten. He was up to 106 pitches, and we gave him a big ovation as he left the field, in case he did not return.

We were excited when the Red Sox tacked on another run in the bottom of the eighth, and even more so when Pedro returned to the mound for the ninth. He would have been out of the inning easily, but Dave McCarty, who had just signed with the Red Sox and had entered the game for defensive purposes, made an error that extended the inning. Next thing we knew, one run was in and the bases were loaded with two outs. But there was no need to worry - Pedro finished with a flair, striking out Tim Salmon to end the game. It was a fitting ending to a very exciting game. If only they could all be like that!

One interesting thing I learned after the game was that Angels' first baseman Robb Quinlan had no putouts during the whole game. Of the Red Sox' 24 outs, there were 8 strikeouts, 12 fly ball outs, a foul pop-up, a line out to second base, a fielder's choice to shortstop that retired the runner at second, and a caught stealing. It was the first time an American League first baseman did not have a putout since John Olerud had done it in 2000.

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