|Game 51: May 29, 2007|
|Indians||2||L: Jeremy Sowers (1-5)||31-19, 2 game losing streak
12-5-1 series record
|Red Sox||4||W: Josh Beckett (8-0)
H: Brendan Donnelly (7)
H: Javier Lopez (7)
S: Hideki Okajima (4)
|36-15, 5 game winning streak
14-3-2 series record
|Highlights: Okajima was presented with his Rookie of the Month award for April by none other than Dennis Eckersley and went on to convert his fourth save opportunity. Kevin Youkilis, batting in David Ortiz’s spot, had multiple hits in a game for the 25th time this season and extended his hitting streak to 21 games.|
Can this Red Sox team make even a hardened cynic believe in true love?
Worry not, this isn’t a promotional spot for “Sox Appeal” (premiering in July on NESN, if you hadn’t heard). After a few weeks of first ignoring, then actively combating against, the flutterings that have played in my heart, I have to say it.
I love this team.
And that includes Julio Lugo (because he at least makes it more interesting than Alex Gonzalez, both at the plate and in the hole) and J.D. Drew (who was part of the home run quartet and who believe will eventually out-produce Trot Nixon), even Wily Mo Peña (that grand slam in Baltimore granted him a lifeline) and Julian Tavarez (who simply must pitch when we play at a National League park because I believe he will do something patently insane, like get on base and try to steal home in an effort to be the first pitcher to do so since Curt Simmons on September 1, 1963).
Other years would have had me and every other Red Sox fan wringing our hands in collective despair over the disabled list stint of Josh Beckett and the recent lack of David Ortiz. Other teams would not have been able to sustain their success with the loss of these key players.
This team is not like any other team.
Last year I had a few Sox Pax and as the end of the season dwindled so did my enthusiasm. I would joylessly check the remaining stack of tickets to see when I had to fulfill my next obligation. This year I’ve been counting the days until the next time I get to visit Fenway. I’ll even consider broiling on the metal benches in Conigliaro’s Corner come July.
True love knows no bounds.
Beckett was infuriating last year. He was that reckless brute of a man, the kind you spend endless hours talking to your girlfriend about, trying to help her get the fact that he just won’t change. Except that he did. He matured, learned his craft, and treated the game with respect. No longer does he merely attempt to blow away batters but has them guessing by mixing in his remarkable curve. He may not know how to spell “emphatic,” but he can work for seven innings, allow three hits, walk one, and strike out seven, just as he did last night.
I like Cleveland as a team and I respect its general manager Mark Shapiro. I enjoy watching them play much more than the Tigers or Twins and even read up on some of the players as a result, but as long as they are playing against the Red Sox they are open game.
So much for Jhonny Peralta’s eye surgery. It may have helped him at the dish, but the shortstop misjudged Coco Crisp’s handling of Travis Hafner’s fly ball to center and was doubled off first base to end the first inning.
Does Jeremy Sowers have his parents’ permission to go on an out-0f-city excursion all the way to Boston? The sophomore pitcher is 24 but looks half his age. Dustin Pedroia should share his Flintstone multivitamins with him so he can grow up big and strong.
Grady Sizemore deserves all the acclaim and admirers he garners. The snag he made of Wily Mo Peña’s swiftly falling fly ball to deep center was spectacular; he was in full sprint to the wall and precisely extended his arm to rob Peña of an extra base hit. He’s young, talented, and handsome, so the creation of something like Grady’s Ladies was inevitable. Red Sox fans cannot claim superiority because the squeals that accompany Jason Varitek’s saunter from the dugout to the bullpen are minion.
Varitek does deserve recognition for his circuit clout in the fifth, his shot soaring over the wall onto Lansdowne. But if fan reaction were based just on production, Kevin Youkilis should have panties thrown at him as if he were Tom Jones. The first baseman plated the first Boston run of the game in the first with his double off the left field wall and homered in the sixth to the first row of the Monster seats.
Indians relief pitcher Fernando Cabrera was the anti-Javier Lopez. He took the mound in the sixth with Mike Lowell camped at second and two out. All he needed was a ground ball to an infielder but instead he walked Varitek, Peña (you read that right), and Pedroia, adding another run to Boston’s total.
Cleveland rallied in the top of the seventh with two odd balls to right field. Drew took Peralta’s line drive to the face as he dove; fortunately Coco Crisp backed him up to limit the shortstop to a single base. Then Travis Hafner’s fly ball to right took an outlandish bounce away from him as Drew pursued it near the warning track. It dribbled to the wall and followed the curve far enough so that Crisp dug it out from under the padding to return it to the infield. Hafner scored on Victor Martinez’s ground out to first, but the home team had already built enough of a lead for their bullpen to maintain despite Brendan Donnelly.
Donnelly hit Ryan Garko to lead off the eighth but dismissed the next two hitters with ease. Pinch-hitting Casey Blake got the better of the window-wearer with a liner to left. Terry Francona brought in ground ball pitching guru Lopez and Sizemore complied with a roller to second base.
Is it fair for a team to have two relief aces? Hideki Okajima could be the closer on most teams in the league. Okajima operated on the heart of the Indians order and extracted a win to put a clamp on the series.