Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fenway Fun under full moon for Red Sox on Friday the 13th

Nothing could cool off the Sox Friday

The Red Sox have already been dead and buried several times this season, only to be dug up each time they string together a few wins. Those seeking a true turnaround, however, have never been quite as encouraged as last night at Fenway Park.

As I arrived at the damp Fens with almost-10-year-old Rachel (the 2004 talisman), I took all the normal good-luck precautions. I bought a bag of unsalted peanuts from Nick Jacobs' cart at the entrance to Yawkey Way, made sure my lucky cap was on securely, and tapped a Jimmy Fund collection box as I headed to Section 17. We took a shot and settled in about 10 rows in front of our "real" seats, and although I warned Rachel we might get booted, it never happened. 

More positive karma came in the form of the ceremonial first pitch tossed out by Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. It was Fisk and former batterymate Luis Tiant who did the honors before Game 6 of last fall's World Series, and that night turned out OK. The starting pitcher was the same for Boston as in the Fall Classic finale too -- John Lackey.

This all pointed to a good night for the boys in red (FYI, I prefer the classic white home jerseys), but it was old pal Terry Francona's Indians who struck first. They got to Lackey for a couple runs in the second courtesy of a mammoth home run to right-field from Carlos Santana, which prompted this exchange: 
Santana's dinger quiets the crowd -- for now.
(Associated Press, Charles Krupa)

Dad: "Wow, that was a no-doubter."

Rachel: "Why do they call it a no-doubter?" 

Dad: "Well, there was never any doubt it would go out once it left the bat. But don't worry, it's still early."

Deep done I worried that the offensive doldrums that have haunted the Red Sox all year, especially with men on base, would continue under the foggy full moon. These fears were initially realized when a lumbering Ortiz was thrown out easily at the plate in the bottom of the second after a very poor decision by third-base coach Brian Butterfield to send him with nobody out and Cleveland starter Justin Masterson struggling to find the plate. 

The gaffe was magnified by a couple shots that rolled to the 420-mark in deepest center from A.J. Pierzynski (hitting more than .330 at Fenway!) and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Although they were good for a double and triple respectively that gave Boston the lead, it should have been 4-2 instead of 3-2 -- and with runs so hard to come by lately I worried we'd regret the one squandered. 
Lackey struggled early, finished strong.
(Associated Press, Charles Krupa)

It wound up not being a problem. Although the Indians did things in the third on back-to-back doubles from Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley, Lackey locked it in after that and would be near perfect until relieved with two out in the seventh. 

Masterson, however, was clearly off his game, and after allowing two walks to start the fourth (his third and fourth free passes of the night) was yanked by Francona. Young lefty Kyle Crockett didn't have much more luck, as a Mike Napoli double made it 5-2. This seemed worthy of a Dad and Daughter selfie, which we promptly placed on Facebook as a cyber-smile to the Reluctant Fan working at home.  

(A sidenote here; while last year Francona was routinely cheered each time he emerged from the Cleveland dugout at Fenway, last night there was almost no attention paid the former Sox skipper and folk hero during his many trips to the mound. I think this is a positive, for although fans here still remember the championships Tito helped bring to New England, this is a new era with new titles and new players -- save Big Papi.)

The middle innings were quiet offensively, but the Sox flashed some fine leather around including a leaping line-drive grab by Brock Holt in left field and a couple diving masterpieces from Dustin Pedroia on ground balls in the hole. It wasn't until later that I learned that Pedroia had gone to the game from the hospital after the birth of his third child earlier in the day.
Dad Petey plays some D.
(Associated Press)

Petey's early Father's Day got a bit happier in the seventh. He was one of nine Sox to bat in a four-run inning, with his double accounting for two of the runs and Napoli (single) and Daniel Nava (double) hits delivering the others. A moon shot off the left-field light tower by Xander Bogearts in the eighth finished the scoring, prompting a gasp from what was left of a rapidly-thinning crowd. 
Xander shakes the lights.

Cleveland was going through the last of its seven pitchers by the bottom of the eighth when Rachel suggested we move down. This seemed like a great idea, so we spent the top of the ninth watching in box seats by the Red Sox dugout as Burke Badenhop struck out the side to end it.

All in a all, it felt like the good old days of 2013. The Red Sox got strong starting pitching, excellent relief work, timely hitting, and contributions from up and down the lineup. Rookies Bogearts, Bradley, and Holt (now hitting .337, and near .400 when leading off) all looked terrific.
That Bradley kid sure can fly.

The winning streak was now at two, and last place comfortably in the rear-view mirror. Is it the start of a bigger turnaround? That remains to be seen, but Rachel and her dad will be back at Fenway Sunday to try to deliver some more good karma.
Rachel's good luck earns her new shades. 
(Note photo bomb by Twins employees)

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