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Monday, July 23, 2012

Nine creative steps to get through a Jon Lester Sunday at Fenway

 It was tough for us to look at too, Jon.
Jon Lester summed up yesterday’s 15-7 game at Fenway Park quite succinctly when he said, “I’m not a big fan of sucking.” Neither are those of us who watched from the stands as Toronto completed its weekend sweep of the Red Sox, but at least Lester got to leave midway through the fifth inning. What about those of us determined to sit through all nine – how did we do it?

Here’s how:

Coming prepared for anything. A first-pitch home run by Brett Lawrie off Lester? Five Toronto runs in the top of the first? Par for the course with the 2012 Red Sox, who have made first-inning deficits an art form. Lester started this game needing to show he could be an ace in the hole for the Sox, but he left out the ace part once again.
A familiar sight this summer at Fenway.
 Cheering on a comeback – Part I. When Adrian Gonzalez smashed a home run in the bottom of the first, we exploded to our feet and thought maybe today would be different. You would think after 97 games we would know better.

Distracting ourselves with fun diversions. This came in real handy in the second inning when the Blue Jays scored four more times to deflate our enthusiasm and take a 9-3 lead. My sister Julie had brought her friend Laura to the game, and just as Toronto was finishing its second time around the batting order, Laura’s cell phone rang. It was her sister Emma, calling from England with news that she had just given birth to a baby girl. Nothing like the smile of a brand-new aunt to (briefly) get your mind off a six-run deficit.
Great news for Laura -- and a deterrent for us.

Playing nice with opposing fans. This can be tough sometimes, especially with loudmouths from Yankee Country, but the Pearce family of Toronto proved delightful next-row neighbors. Three generations of the clan were visiting Fenway for the first time, and needless to say they were quite happy most of the afternoon. At least somebody was.
All's well for the Pearce family.
Speculating how Bobby Valentine would answer the inevitable postgame question, “Why did you leave Lester in so long?” This was the subject of much discussion in the fifth, when a Travis Snider homer – the fourth allowed by Big Jon – stretched Toronto’s lead to 11-4. The Sox had scored a run in the fourth, and in Fenway a five-run deficit is not entirely insurmountable. Seven runs feels a bit worse.

Looking for silver linings. The most obvious one in the middle innings was Boston right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who mercifully replaced Lester after the Snider smash and proceeded to throw three innings of two-hit, five-strikeout, shutout relief. Another was Jacoby Ellsbury’s first home run of the season leading off the bottom of the fifth.
Tawaza kept things interesting.
Cheering on a comeback – Part II. Ellsbury’s homer and two more Boston runs driven in by end-of-the-lineup guys Mike Aviles and Nick Punto in the sixth made it 11-7, and got our hopes up again. When Tazawa struck out the side in the seventh – punctuated by a 95-mile-an-hour heater to overpowered catcher Jeff Mathis – he got a standing ovation from the sun-splashed crowd. Maybe, just maybe….

Heckling “Sweet Caroline.” Four more Toronto runs in the eighth made it 15-7, and when the inning ended my semi-regular weekend seatmates (the two Nancys) started shouting “NO! NO!” when Neil Diamond’s Fenway anthem came over the loudspeakers. I quickly joined them, and even came up with my own revised lyrics – instead of the fist-pumping “Da! Da! Da!” I yelled “Buy! A! Brick!” at the ridiculous people who could actually sing with the season going down the toilet – and would blithely be purchasing a commemorative Fenway Park 100th anniversary brick or two after the game.

"Sweeet Caroline....BUY A BRICK!"
Congratulating my son for sticking it out. Jason comes from good tough Red Sox stock, and on his first visit to Fenway at age two sat through most of a 14-inning marathon. But rather than joining the 25,000 or so folks who left after the bottom of the eighth and gave the ballpark a Butch Hobson era feel, he stayed until the end and even donned a rally cap for the 1-2-3 Red Sox ninth. I got him a beautiful Dwight Evans card (complete with a piece of a real Dewey bat) as a reward, and the smile on his face helped soften the angst of the day a bit.
Jason and Julie hold out hope -- for another day.

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