FEAR THE WRATH OF THE RED SOX!
Another win, and I'm hopped up like a crack fiend.
But first, it should be noted, the obligatory D.Lowe Meltdown did still occur tonight, following two errors by Mark Bellhorn. After the second, watching Derek swipe at his face like Rain Man, I screamed at the television, "She canna take much more, Cap'n!"
I could feel it coming. Derek was about to fill his shorts and fill the stands with unhappy campers. He glared at Bellhorn, who looked back at him expressionlessly, because Mark Bellhorn is always expressionless. He might have been thinking, "If I don't move, maybe he won't see me..." or he could have been thinking about the microwave burrito he had cooling in the clubhouse. You'd never know.
Lowe turned back to the plate with the bases loaded, and promptly walked in a run. My blood pressure soared. Just looking at the Derek Lowe Face (c. Bill Simmons, 2002) in living color on the TV screen almost caused me to burst a blood vessel.
If he didn't get out of this inning, I was going to kill him. It was that simple. I didn't know how, but if Derek Lowe didn't get out of this inning, I was going to hunt him down in the streets like a rabid dog. And then I was coming after Mark Bellhorn and anyone else who got in my way.
Lowe being the streak stopper--the win streak stopper, that is--was too much to contemplate. In that moment, I was as vicious as any addict denied her fix. And if Derek Lowe didn't get out of this inning, all my frustration would be heaped upon him. Oh, woe unto D.Lowe if he didn't get out of this inning.
"Come on, Derek, suck it up!" I ground out through clenched teeth.
Derek worked a count of 3 and 2 on Hank Blalock. The crowd was on its feet, on its feet for Derek, watching those two red lights out in left field and believing as only Red Sox fans can believe. After all he's put us through, the Fenway Faithful still showed him The Love as he wound up to deliver that final strike.
As Hank Blalock's grand slam neared the right field wall, the crowd began to grasp what was about to happen. The cheers turned into a "Whooooooaaaa" as if they were trying to stop it from their seats.
And I thought to myself, Derek, you're dead.
My nostrils fully flared, I settled into the third inning. Derek sat his sorry ass on the bench. By the time there were two outs, my knuckles had gone a delicate shade of ivory. With those two outs up on the board, Bellhorn stood in the on-deck circle behind Johnny Damon, who promptly singled to left, because he is Johnny Damon, and this week the Force has been with him, indeed.
Then Bellhorn. Christ, I thought, The poor bastid. Then, as the booing began, I thought, Serves him right.The bastid.
The Fenway atmosphere has emphatically changed over the years. From the acrimoniousness of the seventies to the apathy of the eighties to the cautious exuberance of the 90's and all-out fanatacism of the aughts, the boo quotient among the Faithful has diminished drastically. So if they boo, you know someone really had it coming. Witness Bellhorn.
With a count of 1-0, Bellhorn jerked a two-run homer into the seats, reducing the Rangers' lead to one run and turning the boos into ecstatic cheers in one fell swoop.
Ah, Bellhorn, I thought as I watched him round the bases. What a guy.
Bellhorn returned, decorously as always, to the dugout where he perched on the bench next to Derek, who still looked like someone had just run over his dog about three times in quick succession right in front of him.
"He looks," my mother declared of Bellhorn, "Like someone from the 18th century."
"Looks like an axe murderer from the 18th century right now," my father chortled. He was right. It was actually quote spooky. Bellhorn, with his sweaty hair curling over his ears and stubble dishevelling his face, gazing up toward the field with red-rimmed eyes, looked much the way you would picture Jack the Ripper looking, if Jack the Ripper played baseball. All he was missing was a cravat and some dried bloodstains on a lacy handkerchief.
After Bellhorn's homer, the Sox never looked back. They fired up the merry-go-round, as Deane often says, and trounced the Rangers 15-6.
So Derek is safe for another day.
Toward the end, Francona brought out Joe Nelson (no word on whether he's related to Jeff Nelson), a rookie closer rammed through the system with the Sea Dogs and Pawtucket now standing on the mound at Fenway as green as a branch on a sapling, trembling in the breeze.
He put two men on base, but also managed to record two outs. Unfortunately, he then found himself facing Alfonso Soriano for the final out.
True, even if Soriano had hit a three-run homer, the Sox would still have led by six runs with two outs. But we'd already seen what had happened with two outs back in the second inning.
And so we came to Sign Tek Now, Vol. III. Nelson worked a count of 0-2, and an ecstatic Fenway was on its feet again (when will we ever learn?). Nelson then proceeded to disappoint the crowd utterly with two high and outside pitches for balls 1 and 2.
You don't understand, the crowd seemed to be sighing. We paid our money and we want that third strike. Now.
But those two high pitches were not mistakes. Tek was setting up for them and Nelson was hitting the target exactly where Tek put it.
"Varitek's a genius," I told Steve.
"He's having Nelson throw outside and high to set up Soriano. Soriano knows he's being set up, so he probably thinks Nelson will come after him with the next pitch right over the plate. He's gonna swing for the fences."
"Mmm hmm," Steve said mildly.
"But they'll get him down and inside," I prattled on.
"Hopefully," I added finally, just to be sure.
I needn't have. The bottom fell completely out of a pitch the Rem-Dawg told us was christened "The Vulcan" (after the strange grip Nelson has to use, making the fork between his middle finger and ring finger rather than his index finger and middle finger), Soriano whiffed, game over, Red Sox win.
I know it wasn't exactly a high-importance situation. But it was the first time I'd caught on to the pitching strategy as it was actually happening.
So, if Tek is always so spot-on with his pitch calls, and I've heard tell he is, the question isn't whether or not he'd perform this way when it is important. The question is, why does Tek congratulate the pitcher after a game-ending punchout? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
And, of course, there's another question, one I think I've asked enough times here. I don't need to repeat it now.