|Game 2: March 26, 2008|
|Red Sox||1||L: Jon Lester (0-1)||1-1, 1 game losing streak|
|Athletics||5||W: Rich Harden (1-0)
H: Santiago Castillo (1)
H: Keith Foulke (2)
|1-1, 1 game winning streak|
|Highlights: Manny Ramirez continued to grow his dreadlocks and his legend. His sixth-inning four-bagger was the only offensive highlight by the Red Sox, who were held hitless until the fourth inning. The only other player to manage an extra base hit was Coco Crisp; his two-out double in the seventh didn’t spark a rally but perhaps stoked his trade value.|
Oakland starter Rich Harden offered a glimpse of the brilliance he is capable of when healthy, which is not the norm for the 26-year old pitcher. Over six innings the righty struck out nine, allowed a meager three hits (including a homer to Ramirez), and walked three.
Jon Lester had the same number of bases on balls and also gave up home run, but his blunder came in the third inning with two runners on base. Emil Brown crushed a middle-of-the-plate offering, lofting it into left field stands. Both Lester and Brown knew at the moment of contact that when the ball landed the score would be 4-0; the pitcher steadfastly stood with his back to the ball’s inevitable trajectory and the hitter calmly dropped his weapon in the batter’s box.
Hopefully it won’t be a scene oft-repeated, otherwise minds may wander back to those many months when another, more esteemed southpaw seemed destined for Fenway Park.
Yes, Lester is symbolic of many things: he was the first pick of the 2002 draft and received the highest bonus of any second rounder that year (thanks to Dan Duquette); he survived cancer and won the final game of the 2007 World Series. But he’s nowhere near the caliber of pitcher Johan Santana is, and probably never will be.
But, if you have a Beckett and a Matsuzaka, perhaps a Santana is a luxury. The Red Sox indulge in other luxuries, such as the affable but ineffectual Sean Casey, who grounded into a double play in the ninth after Mike Lowell singled to left. That was the first time Boston had the leadoff man reach.
Oakland’s pitchers made the Red Sox look like rank amateurs, combining for 13 punchouts and five hits allowed. Not even the enthusiasm of Hiroshii Hiraoka could kindle the wan lineup of the travel-weary Red Sox.
Hiraoka (1856-1934) was a railway engineer who studied in Massachusetts in the 1870s. So enamored of the Boston Red Stockings was he that he founded the Shimbashi Athletic Club upon his return in 1877, earning him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Japan and the moniker of “the father of baseball in Japan.” Some writers have traced the passion for Red Sox baseball back to Hiraoka, but obviously the team Hiraoka cheered for was the precursor club to the modern-day Atlanta Braves.
Maybe if Moe Berg was sent to break the Athletics’ signals Boston would have had more success.
Berg spied on the Japanese on his second trip to Japan, the same trip that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. His first trip was more of an expedition for the cerebral Berg, a graduate of Princeton and Columbia Law School; he traveled on to other Asian countries as well as Egypt and Germany. Berg would eventually play sparingly for the Red Sox in the mid to late 1930s.
Such is the convoluted, peculiar, and entwining histories of Japan and America through baseball: sometimes at odds but oddly attracted to the same transcendent sport.