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Home » September 2007 Game CommentsSeptember 2007 » Yūshōki [優勝旗]

Yūshōki [優勝旗]

Game 160: September 28, 2007
Twins 2 L: Kevin Slowey (4-1) 78-83, 1 game losing streak
20-24-7 series record
WinRed Sox 5 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (37)
95-65, 1 game winning streak
33-14-5 series record
2007 AL East Champions
Highlights: Yūshōki means a championship flag or pennant; 優 symbolizes superior, skilled, or excellence, 勝 means victory, and 旗 translates to flag. After leading the division since April 18, the Red Sox prevailed in their division last night. The last clinching game I had attended was for the wild card; coincidentally it was a match-up against the Orioles. Until last night, September 25, 2003 was one of the best nights at Fenway I’ve had.

When I go to games after work I usually park at Wellington, the most convenient T stop between my office and home. The parking attendant there knows that I go to games and we chat about the team’s progress (or lack thereof) even though she is more of a basketball fan.

This past Tuesday the lot was packed. I wove through row after row until I found a guy I thought would be leaving shortly. It was a prime spot right in view of the station and kiosk. I paused behind his behind his truck for about five minutes. The attendant saw me from her booth and gestured as if to say, “What the dealio? Is that guy not moving?”

I shrugged in response and shifted into first to hunt for another spot, but she shook her head and made a stop sign. She walked over to the driver of the truck and asked him to leave. He hadn’t realized I had been waiting and left quickly. Before returning to her post she nodded at me. I smiled and waved my gratitude.

She was in the booth again yesterday. With her I don’t feel restricted by jinxes. “We’re going to do it tonight,” I stated.

As a Celtics fan, she was intimate with futility. Smiling skeptically she wished me good luck.

I arrived at Fenway around 4:30. The first picture I took was of the white 1988, 1990, and 1995 banners that signified winning the AL East pennant.

The timbre of the game was keenly intense. Having only been to one postseason game, this is the second-most rapt I had seen a Fenway crowd. There was an explosion of smiley faced yellow beachballs but it quickly subsided. A few people tried to start the wave but it thankfully never caught on. I was only distracted by text message updates from a friend observing the events in Charm City. After seemingly endless barrages of Bronxian RBIs I finally replied, “Ok just let me know if Os score.”

Polite Heckler™ Matt was so engulfed not even Nick Punto’s ramshackle performance at second diverted his attention. Cotton Candy Girl, formerly Diet Coke Girl, did, however.

Even the relief corps contributed to the ardor of the evening. While sitting on their benches they periodically pounded on the bullpen ceiling in a steady, menacing beat.

We 37,000 or so congregants were transfixed by Daisuke Matsuzaka’s eight-inning performance, especially since he came out for that final inning with 105 pitches already on the balance sheet. “Is Tito waiting for [Torii] Hunter to hit a two-run game-tying homer?” muttered the cynic behind me. Of course that man didn’t bother to stay for the entirety of the Yankees/Orioles game.

Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez had been warming since the seventh. In that frame Matsuzaka gave up two runs, one of them a solo shot to Justin Morneau who deposited a souvenir into the section next to mine. That will happen when facing MVP-caliber hitters.

Calling the Red Sox starter a rookie is something of a misnomer. This is a man who as a teenager pitched a 17-inning game, closed the ninth the next day for a win, and pitched a no-hitter in the championship game, all on his nation’s biggest stage. Matsuzaka’s eight-strikeout performance last night is just the first rung of the ladder as he elevates his game into postseason form.

The heart of Boston’s order beat as one last night to surge to an early lead. In the first David Ortiz smacked a two-out double off the wall over Jason Kubels’s head and was driven in by Mike Lowell’s liner to the opposite field. J.D. Drew golfed a shot to left that evaded Kubel’s pursuit to plate Lowell. Ortiz would tack on another run in the eighth with his 35th homer, a shot off majestic trajectory that soared through Fenway’s luster to land in the Monster seats.

Jonathan Papelbon defied the Sports Illustrated cover jinx and pounded out his 37th save of the season in flawless fashion. He would display less than chic fashion sense later in the evening after his Yankee counterpart Mariano Rivera failed where Papelbon succeeded.

As this situation was unprecedented, even as Papelbon pitched to Michael Cuddyer I nervously wondered where I could meet up with Jere, who was in the same section as me, to watch the rest of the Baltimore tilt. Red Sox management provided for us all by playing the game on the jumbotron. I tried to quell my propensity to yell obscenities at the screen while watching sporting events.

Do the tendrils of Red Sox memory extend so far as to still grow unknown in the souls of players like Jay Payton and Chad Bradford? Payton drove in the tying runs with a triple to right in the ninth against the Hammer of God, who lately has been more like the Doornail of a Minor Mesopotamian Deity.

Chad Bradford surrendered a leadoff double by Derek Jeter in the top of the 10th. When pinch runner Bronson Sardinha advanced to third on Bobby Abreu’s ground out to first, Dave Trembley walked two batters to get the force at every station. Oddly enough, the last two outs came by air.

The Orioles found themselves in a near-replica of the situation the Yankees did in the top of the frame. Tike Redman doubled with one out and Joe Torre gave the four-finger salute to Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada.

Former ranch hand Kevin Millar froze on Edwar Ramirez’s change-up for the third strike, reminding the thousands remaining why he was not entirely missed.

Melvin Mora bunted towards third, a do-or-die tactic that actually worked. The remaining Fenway faithful erupted into frenetic euphoria as Redman crossed home. It was like going to your rich buddy John Henry’s crib for a game on his massive HDTV. And it would only get better.

Pictures and accounts of the championship-clinching celebrations to follow.

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