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Home » June 2008 Game CommentsJune 2008 » Nascent


Game 79: June 23, 2008
WinDiamondbacks 2 W: Dan Haren (8-4)
H: Tony Pena (13)
S: Brandon Lyon (16)
40-37, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 1 L: Josh Beckett (7-5) 47-32, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: A pitchers’ duel that reminded me of the showdown between Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez on June 8, 2002. Again the home team lost by a single run. A little girl I talked to at the T stop wearing a balloon animal monkey around her shoulders couldn’t have been happier despite the loss. She got to see her favorite players Manny Ramirez and “Coco Crisp Coco Puffs.”

Success breeds followers. The Diamondbacks snatched the title away from the Yankees in 2001 and when the team visited Fenway in 2002 quite a few fans were festooned in shades of teal and purple. But as quickly as they rocketed to a title (they were the fastest expansion team to win the World Series) they plummeted to irrelevance under the increasingly inept ownership of Jerry Colangelo.

When the Red Sox were drenching locker rooms across the country with champagne on their 2004 championship run, the Diamondbacks turned in a historically awful season, winning just 51 games. Bob Brenly was fired mid-season and Colangelo sold his stake in the club.

With the first pick of the 2005 draft, the Diamondbacks secured Justin Upton, a player whose name was uttered by scouts in the same breath as Ken Griffey, Jr. He joined another first rounder Stephen Drew from the 2004 draft and a bevy of other homegrown talents to return to the playoffs last year.

Not only did they change the team’s strategy for success on the field by forgoing the big free agent signings that formerly brought them triumph but retooled their front office as well. Red Sox alum Josh Byrnes was hired in October of 2005 as general manager and extended his contract with Arizona earlier this year; competition from the Sonoran Desert will continue to flourish until 2015.

So it was not surprising to see dozens of new Diamondback fans at Fenway in the updated sedona red and black color scheme. The team that defied baseball’s Pythagorean theorem last year spearheaded their attack on the American League with one of its former aces, Dan Haren.

Haren stifled the Red Sox lineup over seven innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out five. Jason Varitek was the only Boston hitter to muster an extra base hit. The backstop’s third inning leadoff double went to waste, however. Haren dashed to glove Coco Crisp’s arcing bunt attempt just before the orb touched the infield turf for the first out. Julio Lugo’s ground out was ill-placed in front of the runner, so Varitek was glued to second. Jacoby Ellsbury took the open base on a six-pitch base on balls, but Haren beguiled Dustin Pedroia to take an ill-advised swing on a fastball with a smidgen of heat taken off.

Josh Beckett matched and perhaps even surpassed Haren inning for inning until the seventh. Beckett began to lose the strike zone a tad on his curveball and switched over to his fastball. The Diamondbacks, being the young hitters they are, were sitting dead red. Chris Young smoked a heater into the wall on a shot that would have been a home run in most other parks, plating the first run of the evening.

The second run scored when Brandon Moss was unable to come up with Chris Snyder’s grounder. It was a play that Kevin Youkilis would have made; one can almost picture him coming up with the ball barehanded and quickly relaying to home to stop the run from scoring. Instead, the only thing Youkilis could picture was his rapidly swelling right eye due to a freak accident on a warm-up toss from Mike Lowell.

The home team would pull within a run in the eighth on J.D. Drew’ sacrifice fly to center. With two on and two out, Manny Ramirez smashed the ball on a rope that would have likely won the game had it not intersected with Reynolds’s glove. The Red Sox can consider that payback for Lowell’s third inning trammel of Snyder’s leadoff liner at the top of the third.

As I made my way home I happened to see Jackie MacMullan standing on a sidewalk near the Landmark Center. “You’re incredible, you really put Woody Paige in his place on “Around the Horn.” I miss reading you in the Boston Globe,” I gushed. “Wasn’t the Celtics’ run remarkable? It’s amazing to live in New England at this moment.”

That is what I wanted to say. Instead all that came out was a whispered “That’s Jackie MacMullan” that she heard anyway and a tentative “Hi” when I realized she made eye contact with me.

“Hi, how are you?” she replied, genuinely smiling. “Great,” I replied but continued on my way to the Fenway T stop.

I think (hope) she knows what I meant to say.

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