It's a weird thing to watch (or listen to) an important game without anybody around you that cares. I watched a Tottenham football match with Becky's boyfriend James a couple weeks back and we sat mostly in silence since I didn't feel comfortable asking stupid questions and he didn't feel comfortable being a hooligan in front of me. Toward the end of the match he remarked, "It's a bit strange for me to watch this and not be screaming obscenities." I listened to last night's Sox elimination game by myself on MLB.com internet radio and felt similarly adrift.
Thoughts during the game with whom I had nobody to share:
- While Joe & Jerry were doing their pregame song and dance (lineups, trying for the 1000th time to sound convincing that these two old farts actually enjoy Mike's Hard Lemonade) you could hear "Don't Stop Believing" on the Fenway PA system.
- The bomb by Ortiz
was an adventure on Joe's call: "Swing and a drive, but he got
under—wait, the wind is pushing it, Rowand back to the wall...GONE!" The inverse of his typical "THIS BALL IS DEEP, BACK TO THE WALL, WAY BACK...and caught." spiel that Mike loves to hate.
- Francona let Wakefield go just a little too long. It was clear that the only thing keeping this klunky-but-serivicable start from being a blowout by the sixth was a series of
brilliant defensive plays (Trot's sliding catch, Renteria's grab,
Olerud's diving stop, Trot's plucking a ball out of the stands). Tough to lay it all at Terry's feet, I know, but you can't afford those "Oops, should've pulled him an inning earlier" mistakes in the playoffs (c.f. P. Martinez, G. Little. Game 7, ALCS. Annals of Bonehead Management, 2003.)
- That being said, Ozzie definitely shouldn't
have let Garcia start the 6th. The Manny homer was almost inevitable.
- Marte's three batters started the most exciting series of at-bats since
last year's ALCS. It's a bit depressing not to have people to high-five
when they drew those two walks but I was still muttering things under
my breath like, "C'mon Billy ballgame, just wait for your pitch, make
this fucker throw a strike, c'mon."
- I really started freaking out during the break when they brought El Duque in. I started having horrible visions of getting zero runs out of a bases-loaded-no-out situation. I hated the Varitek substitution (although Mirabelli was 0-2) because Tek has been slumping and has a habit of weak outs or the dreaded GIDP when he's off. Unlike Big Papi, he seemed unlikely to make a 400 foot sacrficial out. I even started thinking, "Just don't hit a double play grounder."
- I really thought Graffanino
was going to work a hit after he kept fouling off those tough two
strike pitches. It seems like hitters get the advantage in long at-bats like that. The pitcher's forced to keep hitting his spots and the pressure is on him not to make a mistake pitch. Tough series for Tony G, who filled in admirably for Rob Schneider for the second half of the season.
- Prize for heart-attack inducing moment goes to Jerry's call on the 3-2 pitch to Damon: "Start the merry-go-round,
everybody's running, Nixon from third, Mueller from second, Olerud from
first, HERE COMES THE PAYOFF PITCH—SWINGANDAMISS!
That's the ballgame, right there. I wrote it, then erased it, then wrote it again, then erased it. Baseball seems to have those moments where you know that the game is decided right there. I didn't want to believe it this time (hey it was still a one run game with 3 innings to play, right?). The morbidity of the Red Sox batters after that was utterly predictable, especially that ridiculous 3 pitch strikeout for Ortiz in the 7th. I was surprised to see Chicago look so weak (until the beautiful suicide squeeze in the 9th) since momentum seemed to be massively on their side. Shows that Papelbon's got some guts that we was able to keep it close, I guess.
If you want to read today's Globe coverage, stay with the always solid Bob Ryan and avoid the perpetually melodramatic Shaughnessy. It's too bad the Sawx won't still be playing when I'm home at World Series time, but we'll always have 2K4.