|Game 157: September 25, 2007
||L: Chad Gaudin (11-13)
||75-83, 2 game losing streak
22-24-4 series record
||W: Curt Schilling (9-8)
H: Manny Delcarmen (11)
H: Eric Gagne (4)
H: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
|93-64, 1 game winning streak
32-14-5 series record
Divisional magic number: 3
|Highlights: Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis returned to action in the first game of the final homestand of the season. The team honed its postseason edge as the games, like the daylight hours of fall, dwindle. Judging by the performances last night, the chance for a few of the players to make the playoff roster also diminished.
Invariably when I talk with someone about my Red Sox fan credentials my sordid past as a Mets fan in Hawai‘i is uncovered. Since the islands have no professional sports franchises of their own, people there root for teams that have players with Hawaiian connections. Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling, both born in Hawai‘i, were on that 1986 team.
It is half a world, half a lifetime distant, but the same tendencies still color my perceptions. I could not help but cheer for Kurt Suzuki a little; he is from the island I grew up on and went to the high school I attended.
I revealed this parochial proclivity to the friend I went to the game with last night. As it turns out, he was an undergraduate at MIT in 1975 and had just moved to the Hub from Ohio. He was amongst the 20 or so people perched on the billboard on Lansdowne Street desperately peering into Fenway to catch a glimpse of the World Series. Back then he was not cheering for the same team he does today.
Our respective rehabilitations prove one doesn’t necessarily need to be born into Red Sox nation. There is a naturalization process that can be successfully completed with diligent study and steady devotion. If I recall correctly, one of the precepts of citizenship is to not boo the players on the team one follows.
It’s a lesson easily forgotten when J.D. Drew is at the plate. There are many strikes against him, and I’m not just talking about the ones he takes while in the box. His salary, his agent, his holdout, his seeming aloofness, the man who he replaced in right field: all these factors insinuated themselves into the collective unconscious of the fans to beget the ideal scapegoat.
We did not boo despite Drew’s strikeout in the first with two men in scoring position. “Perhaps he’s imagining everyone is yelling his last name,” my friend suggested hopefully.
Whether it be the power of positive thinking or regression to the mean, Drew ended the evening with three hits, three RBI, a walk, and an astute nab of a dying liner that could have been a hit but was instead a sacrifice fly and the first out of the ninth.
Curt Schilling gave up a homer to rookie standout Daric Barton in the first but tamped down the Athletics’ lineup for the remainder of the evening. The only other extra base hit allowed by the veteran righty was a double over the head of Brandon Moss and off the left field wall. Schilling can’t, or perhaps won’t, unleash mid-90s heat, but the stuff he did have was precise and studied. Perhaps the only reason why Barton was able to get to Schilling was because the pitcher hasn’t been able to analyze the newcomer’s tendencies yet.
Manny Ramirez electrified the crowd with his return to the lineup. It was the first time he had ever batted second and it seemed to suit him. He roped a single to right in his first at bat and scored the tying run on Mike Lowell’s double. While he popped out to second in his second at bat, he worked seven pitches out of Chad Gaudin in the fifth for a leadoff walk.
Kevin Youkilis was not as prosperous in his homecoming, going 0-for-2 and painfully fouling off yet another ball off of himself.
In the eighth Eric Gagne came in with a three-run lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Shannon Stewart but managed two fly ball outs. In an monumental at bat against Jack Cust, the reborn uberprospect earned a base on balls. While Gagne tumbled, the Devil Rays surged ahead of the Yankees on Jorge Velandia’s first home run, which also happened to be a grand slam.
It was the loudest ovation Gagne has heard on the mound as a Red Sox player since his debut, and it was not for him.
At last Terry Francona was forced to bring in Jonathan Papelbon for the the last out of the inning. One pitch, one pop out to short, and Papelbon notched his first hold of 2007.
When, not if, Francona at last abandons the notion of reforming Gagne, he need only look at the young man who nailed down the seventh inning with two strikeouts, a base on balls, and no hits. Manny Delcarmen may be the one to further prove his mettle for a spot on the postseason roster.
David Ortiz made his team’s lead bullpen experiment-proof with a two-run longball in the bottom of the eighth, adding to the sacrifice fly Bobby Kielty contributed. Kielty drove in Julio Lugo, who drew a walk from his brother Ruddy in their first fraternal face-off.
Francona used Bryan Corey as long as he could. Unlike Joe Torre, he did not need to burn through bullpen arms that he already knows would be seeing extra toil in October. Corey labored the bottom third of the order and surrendered two runs in the process.
Without the dazzling play of Dustin Pedroia, Francona may have had to resort to Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin, or even Hideki Okajima. The second baseman extended as far as his abbreviated frame could and was able to glove Stewart’s arc to shallow right. He didn’t resort to his typical tumble; instead he recovered to pivot and catch Jack Hannahan off the keystone bag.
As a reward, perhaps Francona will let Peewee win today’s cribbage match.