Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Um, That Sucks?

Admittedly, I haven't been to many games at Fenway this year. I went to a Yankee game in May, and the 1-0 Beckett-Chamberlain game on Friday, but that was it, until tonight. Of course, I was almost at the Royals game that sits immediately below this post yet was two and a half months ago, but that doesn't count. Almost doesn't mean anything in baseball.

After missing my chance to see Lester's no-hitter, I started to wonder if I would ever see one. I mean, what are the odds? Ross has seen a no-no and a perfect game, but that was during a ridiculous string of luck at Yankee Stadium. In my lifetime, three no-hitters have been thrown at Fenway Park, and they've all happened in the last six years. That's a streak, but it's also a sign that Fenway's luck is about to run out. After turning down tickets to Lester's gem, I figured my luck had run out, too.

Then tonight happened. I went to the game with my friend Cory, who got his tickets as a free gift for buying... something else of substance. We had great seats behind the third base dugout, and with the Sox struggling to hang with the Yankees and Rays (that still feels weird to say), the team's struggles against the Angels, the ongoing Manny Ramirez drama, and the Teixeira trade an hour earlier, we had plenty to talk about in the early going. Three innings flew by in 45 minutes, despite two unearned Angel runs due to two Sox errors (Cora's error was later changed to a hit, but it looked like an error to us), and Lackey, despite giving up a lot of fly balls, still hadn't allowed a hit. I noticed the zeros on the scoreboard after three, but Cory, having forgotten his glasses, didn't. It was way too early, so I didn't say anything, even though it was impossible not to think about.

After five, it was 4-0 Angels, and Cory finally realized what was happening. Lackey was still giving up lot of fly balls, but had allowed only a hit batsman to reach base. If a Sox pitcher was working this magic, we probably wouldn't have said anything, but since it was the enemy, we talked openly about it... "Five innings... that's not insignificant, but it's still early. We can't root for this, can we? No, there's still time to come back. The Sox have hit Lackey well in the past, it's not over yet."

Still, part of me actually hoped he would do it. I wasn't sure if it was okay to think that, but I did. I can't deny it. After seeing Danny Darwin and Paul Abbott come so close in the past, and blowing off Jon Lester just months earlier, I felt like I was running out of chances. The Yankees were losing, but the Rays were winning, so I was torn as I tried to look at it practically. As if sensing my moral dilemma, and knowing full well the regret I felt over not being there for Lester's no-hitter, Ross send me a text asking if I was at the park. My reply: "Actually..."

He followed by asking what I was rooting for. Obviously, I wanted the Sox to win, but this was baseball history at stake. I went back and forth with myself until the top of the seventh, when the Angels scored two more off of the Buchholz/Hansen pu pu platter. Staring at a 6-0 deficit, my mind was made up.

Even if the Sox managed a hit, even if they scored a run, at this point, it was unlikely that they would win. As Cory and I silently conceded that we were, in fact, the Angels' bitches this year, we also acknowledged that history was more important than this one July win. As some pink-hatters filed out of the park and others tried to start the wave in the bleachers, we both passively rooted for the no-no. After dodging the Alex Cora bullet in the bottom of the 8th (we were both convinced that some stiff like Cora, who had no business not being pinch-hit for in that situation, would break it up with a swinging bunt or a Texas Leaguer), we gave up on being passive. This was happening - we were sure of it.

Finally, in the bottom of the 9th, we stood. In the break before the final half-inning, everyone stood, but as Ellsbury dug in to start the frame, the five or so rows in front of us all sat down. Not wanting to block people's views, we sat as well, but we felt really bad about it.

After Ellsbury struck out, we noticed that people one section over were standing - all of them. I knew we had time to run over and find some empty seats in that section and stand for the remaining two outs because, damnit, that's what you do for a no-hitter. So we did, and no sooner did we get there than did Cory mention how he'd never seen a no-hitter before. Like clockwork, Dustin Pedroia grounded the next pitch into left field, and we started pointing fingers at each other. Cory blamed me for switching seats, I blamed him for talking about this being his first.

Next thing you know, Youkilis homers, and it's a 4-run game with one out and Ortiz and Ramirez coming up. This is the worst case scenario; the no-no is gone and the game is still out of reach, but they're making a comeback just to pull you back in. I'll give you 1,000 guesses as to the final score, but suffice it to say, I went home with a bad case of baseball fan blue balls.

Did I deserve this? Maybe. Whether it was for skipping the Lester game or rooting against the home team, talking openly about it or thinking about it too early... it's hard to think back and consider all of the things I could have done differently. Lackey was not on his game tonight - he allowed tons of fly balls and only struck out four - and the Sox seemed deflated, whether by the Teixeira acquisition or something else. Maybe it just wasn't, or shouldn't have been, meant to be.

Or maybe it's just me. Baseball makes you think about stuff like that, for no good reason. But that's one reason why we keep coming back. You just never know.

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