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Home » 2008 PostseasonOctober 2008 » Jinkōshiba [人工芝]

Jinkōshiba [人工芝]

ALCS Game 1: October 10, 2008
WinRed Sox 2 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (1)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
Rays 0 L: James Shields (0-1) 0-1
Highlights: Could the glory of the game of baseball overcome the shoddy surroundings of Tropicana Field? Indeed it could, particularly with a performance like the one Matsuzaka had. After a rough first inning in which he walked the bases loaded, the visiting starter roared back to hold the Rays hitless for 18 outs. Matsuzaka struck out nine and walked four, and for once I was thankful that a national broadcast team covered the contest rather than sit through Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy’s griping about their least favorite hurler. Dustin Pedroia saved the no-hit bid in the sixth with a play on Carlos Peña’s sharp grounder into the shift. The infielder slid on the jinkōshiba (artificial turf) and pivoted to first to notch the second out of the inning.

The Tampa Bay organization did their best with the opening game of the second playoff series in their young existence. They remembered to change the “D” to “C” in the ALCS logo on the field. The bunting looked a bit chintzy and the uppermost seats were vacant, perhaps due to fire code restrictions? Which would make the twenty-foot flames shot into the air during the pre-game events all the more inexplicable.

The heat was on and the Rays blinked under the pressure.

James Shields matched Daisuke Matsuzaka’s challenge for four innings. Shields led off the fifth by issuing a free pass to Jason Bay, who advanced to third on a shallow double to left off the bat of Mark Kotsay. Rookie Jed Lowrie got a hold of a fat change-up and sent it far enough to plate Bay.

So once again three players that were not on the opening day roster contributed a crucial run.

The eighth inning featured timely hitting by lineup stalwarts. Dustin Pedroia singled up the middle and then swiped second. With the Destroia in scoring position Kevin Youkilis roped a liner to left that befuddled Carl Crawford.

The Rays outfielder couldn’t decide whether to let it drop to stop it from getting past him or make a diving attempt. Like an equivocating politician, he waited until it was too late and dove headlong into a crisis. Speaking of politics, Rays fans remind me of Sarah Palin supporters. Just as Tampa Bay believers only recently discovered this team, so have Palin devotees just lately came to know the governor.

Both groups also threaten African Americans and other minorities: Coco Crisp and Latin players received death threats, John McCain and Palin countenance baseless slurs on their opponent’s reputation and allow threats on Barack Obama’s life to go unchallenged in their rallies.

It’s not often that Craig Sager’s apparel (last night: purple silk dupioni jacket, lavender gingham shirt, and Pucci-inspired tie) isn’t the most ghastly thing on the field. When he’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, he will always be outdone by the facility itself.

Jonny Gomes can attest that they like to set fire to things in the South.
Photo courtesy Doug Benc, Getty Images

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