Proud Mary Keeps on Turning*
Clemency for McCarty. Never thought I'd say that--typically I greet any decent play McCarty makes by telling his televised image sarcastically, "Welp, guess it's not back to the minors yet, McCarty"--but tonight to my astonishment he earned more clemency points playing first base than we've seen since Trot was in right field (Trot would have made that catch, by the by, that Millar ended up performing a Grade-A face-plant on, but that's neither here nor there).
In the eighth inning, with Mike Timlin on the mound, a ball was gunned down the right-field line, just fair. McCarty snared it, stumbled, and tossed it to Timlin, who was covering first base. It was a perfect grab, a Herculean turnaround, and a smart throw.
Clemency. Major clemency. McCarty saved two runs, and the game.
There was also, of course, Jason Varitek's home run to blow open the lead after Derek Lowe choked in the fifth. The usual suspects and I were in the living room, and oddly enough we were still swearing and bellyaching about something that had come before, when all of a sudden there went the ball in a tremendous arc, past the Coca-Cola bottles and over the Monster seats.
It wasn't a clap-and-cheer moment, really. It was more shock and awe, followed by sobs of joy. We were werklempt. "Tawk amongst yaselves," we rasped to each other as Tek touched 'em all.
It remains to be seen whether there will be clemency for D.Lowe. He coughed up runs and kept his own lead precious thin as the innings wore on, but in the interest of positivity, credit should be given where credit is due.
Chief among the positives for D.Lowe tonight was attitude. I have bemoaned his tendency of "fidgeting and snorting and huffing and flipping out on the mound" when things go wrong. Tonight he showed in several instances that he is fighting hard to control that. He only fidgeted with his hat a few times, and only did the brow-wiping thing--a gesture that usually spells doom--once, toward the end of the sixth inning, and though I feared for the worst seeing his body language, he went on to strike out the last hitter.
Another positive was that his locations were better. There were several situations in which he looked like his old self, or at least like his old self's eerily similar cousin. And maybe it's okay if he's different now--maybe he'll need to find himself again mechanically, but maybe he's also learned his lesson about, say, obscene gestures toward the opposing dugout.
But the best thing I saw all night was the gathering around Lowe on the bench shortly after his outing was over. Schilling, who has been serving as D.Lowe's impromptu pitching coach, sat with his arm around the lad in a fatherly manner, talking a mile a minute and gesturing emphatically. Pedro and Wake flanked the two of them, quiet but making their presence felt. Eckersley would bemoan this as humiliating for Lowe on the post-game NESN show, but I found it touching, and the biggest sign I've seen yet that things will be all right. Because rather than five prima donnas operating on their own agendas, they showed tonight in a powerful way that they've come together as a staff. And Five high-strung, high-octane starters finding a way to work together despite contract flaps and mechanical issues is not to be taken lightly.
"We find ways to win," Keith Foulke said to reporters in front of his locker tonight. "We score runs late in games, we play good defense...we do what it takes to win."
Fill-ins taking the lead because of injuries. A powerful sense of team identity. Finding ways to win against very different teams in very different circumstances. Sounds like another little team we were watching back in February.
And that can only be good.
*I want to note that I chose this as the title because of a story my coworker told me yesterday--he got to go sit 20 rows behind home plate Tuesday night in the "friends and family of the Oakland A's" section, according to him, because Ken Macha is his aunt's cousin. Though my coworker is from Virginia by way of Pittsburgh, he's become a full-fledged Sox fan, and wore full Sox regalia among the Oakland supporters, which earned my grudging respect. Anyway, what he told me about Ken Macha is that what his family remembers most about him is the time he belted out "Proud Mary" while extraordinarily intoxicated at a wedding back in the 70's. According to my coworker, at this wedding, Macha went on a drunken rant a la Steve Buscemi's character in The Wedding Singer. Good times!