It was a somewhat panicky night on the mound at the Trop, but thankfully for the Sox it was a thunderous night on the bases. Papi got things started with a triple so mighty and majestic that it prompted a call from my dad, who suggested they should administer oxygen. A play later, Papi would have to tag up and score, and was probably huffing and puffing for the next inning in the dugout.
All of which gave me the warm fuzzies for approximately as long as it took to see the look on Lester's face after the game-tying home run, which not only brought me screaming back down to earth, game-wise, but also unleashed a flood of protectiveness that startled even me with its ferocity. Apparently John-John can now consider himself a member of my Pitcher Binky Club, which at the rate I'm going will be quite the teeming multitude by the time we hit the playoffs.
What I noticed was that a lot of older guys spent a lot of energy tonight trying to talk to and / or gesture helpfully at Lester. They were circling the wagons around the kid big time, even as he frowned and fussed on the mound. On a couple of pitches that just barely missed or were given borderline calls, Varitek would point to Lester and nod as if to say, "fuck this guy, that was dead on." On another pitch, which was just a hair inside, Varitek held up thumb and forefinger about an inch apart for Lester while the umpire stood back and called a ball.
Before that home run, the camera showed that Curt was shaking his head in the dugout, while out on the field Lester peered towards him. It seems that last season, Lester was trying to take a page out of Curt's book and learn all kinds of things about hitters and trying to think too much out on the field, and at some point someone told him, as they should, "Don't think, it can only hurt the ball club." But still, tonight there were a few points where Lester looked like he was going to cry. And all I could think was, "Poor baby."
Yep, looks like I've got another one.
Meanwhile, Remy and Orsillo kneeling in front of their tiny, ghetto Dunkin' Donuts banner in the booth at the Trop? Priceless.
"If we could see the field it would be nice."
"What'd Gomes do?"
Waggling the rat at Castiglione? Classic. These games at the Trop sometimes have the feeling of a vacation. Remy and Orsillo certainly treat them as such.
Anyway, back to thunderous baserunning, which is basically what saved our bacon in this particular contest. The best thing about this whole game, in my opinion, was Dustin Pedroia's trip around the bases in the seventh. He was aided mightily by the shoddy fielding of the Devil Rays, but also was carried in large part on wings of his own sheer audacity, rounding first after a little hit screaming something at Alicea on his way by, something which looked to me like "I'm going." He coasted in to second on his belly, just barely beating the throw.
A play later, he was coasting in to third in much the same position, although this time even more awkwardly, flopping and flailing and grinding along the ground on his sternum. While dusting himself off, the NESN cameras captured him clearly saying to DeMarlo Hale, almost in surprise, "That fuckin' hurt."
Have I mentioned loving me some Dustin Pedroia lately? Yes? (Enough, maybe, to even ignore the little oopsie in the bottom of the seventh behind Oki...)
Oh, and Mike Lowell staying in after a pitch from Sonnastine hit his wrist with a sickening thock? Bad. Ass. Studly, even.
Almost as studly as Jonathan Papelbon's grudge match against Jonny Gomes in the bottom of the eighth to put an end to some two-baserunner foolishness started by Manny Delcarmen and perpetuated by a worryingly flat Okajima. That final strike? Take that one home to your sister, bud. Filth. Sheer, nasty, high-fastball filth.
Tonight on the postgame show I heard two things which amazed me: the use of the phrase, "Vintage Papelbon", and that Papelbon has saved 30 games for two consecutive seasons, the first time anyone has ever done that in the history of the Red Sox. And he made that mark in grand fashion, getting four outs on four strikeouts. Four filthy, nasty, wonderful strikeouts for our Precious...
The Papelbon-Love. Around here, it is vivid, as always.
But what is up with Oki all of a sudden? Somebody pass me my Tums. It's getting to be time to dig out the Official Postseason Hyperventilation Paper Bag (tm) and portable defibrillator unit, too, which along with Maalox, ibuprofen, coffee, cigarettes, No-Doz, sleep aids, Pepto Bismol and a worn, bleach-stained Curt Schilling number tee, comprise the Essential September-October Baseball Kit. I'm thinking of marketing it, Rem-Dawg style.
Update: Are we total rays of fucking sunshine around Red Sox Nation today or what? Truly, it has been months since I have seen players, coaches and fans of RSN all so uniformly giddy and happy. It just seemed to happen all at once, but now we've got "the slutter" (all anyone could talk about around the office today), Mike Mussina and the Yankees going down in a ball of flame out in Anaheim, and most awesomely the following passage from a Gordon Edes game recap, via Joy of Sox:
Ortiz was still light on his feet after the game, dancing in the buff back and forth in the shower room while singing over and over at the top of his lungs the theme from "Monday Night Football." "Dah-dah-dah-DAH, dah-dah-dah-DAH," sang Ortiz, apparently jacked up that the team's fantasy football draft was about to commence as soon as he could find a towel.
"When he perms down his hair, he can move a little," said center fielder Coco Crisp, whose two-run double was sandwiched by Jason Varitek's RBI single and Julio Lugo's two-run double in the fourth-inning uprising. "I thought he was Cadillacking a little bit on the triple. He's faster than that. He could have run harder."
I love to see them like this--happy, relaxed, friendly with each other, and most of all, kicking ass. I hope it never ends.