It was both a fantastically bizarre novelty and an unnervingly alienating experience to test out my new TiVo*, which was finally set up today, on tonight's game. It meant that despite an ass-kicker at work and some further wedding crap stretching deep into the early evening, I was unusually calm, knowing I'd still get to see every pitch of Joshie's outing if I so wanted. Talk about a paradigm shift; my late afternoons until now have been governed by first-pitch anxiety.
So that was awesome, as has been the ability to rewind and slow down and analyze certain
pitches plays of the game. But with that, we get into the two-edged sword which is me, baseball and TiVo, and that is that until tonight, I didn't quite realize how much of a habit I've made out of the simultaneity of baseball--getting IMs and phone calls and texts from other people watching the game in different places at the same time and reaching out through one of those forms of communication to nudge me a little. Now, what I was watching was out of sync with the nudges. It's still completely sweet that I haven't missed any of the game, but I think I'm going to try to keep my TiVo busy recording all the other stuff I'm ignoring for baseball and still try to get the games in on time. Or at least only about a minute or two behind, so I can still fast-forward through commercials.
Josh had his good stuff tonight, most notably a crisp curveball. Especial bitch status went to both Frank Thomas, whom I refer to as "Aircraft Carrier," and Troy Glaus, who looked silly on some mighty swinging hacks in his at-bats. Greg Zaun also had a memorably vicious empty cut at a curveball that practically bounced off his shoetops in the top of the fifth.
You know how you know he's the ace of this staff? Even when the Blue Jays got within a run, I felt like he was still in the driver's seat. For one thing, I would rather have my starting pitcher give up a three-run homer on one mistake pitch than give up three runs on a string of hits, because the string of hits requires him to make mistake after unfortunate mistake after egregious mistake. In the same weird way I am more comfortable with the two addiitional runs owing to walks, because even there it was Josh in control, a matter of him not making his pitches rather than the Blue Jays solving him.
That said, Matt Stairs looks like Will Farrell playing a baseball player, and we'll just leave it at that.
Josh's personal moment came after the 3-6-1 DP to close out the top of the sixth. After stomping the bag for the out he turned, all smirk and swagger, to head back toward the dugout, and let the ball drop to the ground with a flippant flutter of his fingers and an I-dare-ya narrowing of his eyes. "If he played for New York, look out," my dad said. "He would be hated. He is just such an asshole.
"But he's our asshole."
That sound you heard as he K'd Alex Rios to end the night? That was the sound Fenway makes when it's spurring on its ace to finish off a gem. Josh barely made a peep as he walked off, but his entire body seemed to have live current running through it. He was holding his arms out in that weird half-flexed way he has when truly pumped, and his gum-chewing was slow and methodical. He didn't so much walk as stalk his way off the field, carrying a near-visible aura of command over all he surveyed.
It remains to be seen if he can come through when all the chips are down, the way Curt and Pedro did before him. But for right now he's filling the role with flair, as always.
Meanwhile, it's been jarring to see Jacoby Ellsbury's silhouette out of the corner of my eye or as the camera zooms in from a wide angle in left field--his quick, smooth figure could not be more different from Manny's floppy teddy-bear presence.
My dad, though. My dad is officially in love with Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is his Clay Buchholz**.
"HE HAS TO PLAY." my dad declared on the phone, shortly before I told him not to spoil the game for me, when he called after Jacoby's triple. "Get rid of Manny, fire JD Drew, and let this kid play. He is freakin' un-believable."
"Okay, Dad, if you get rid of Manny and Drew you only have two outfielders," I reminded him. "Are you saying Jacoby can play two positions?"
"Oh, hell, all right, keep Manny I guess. But wait till you see what he does."
Know this: I know my dad. And my dad? LOVES. Jacoby Ellsbury. Already.
What Ellsbury did was find a curveball from Halladay somewhere in the dirt and lift it into right field over the head of a bumbling Alex Rios, rounding three bases in the blink of an eye, in the sixth inning. This after he had already touched up Halladay for a two-run jimmy-jack after Coco legged out a single with two outs.
I spent all day today going, "I cannot believe it's..." I couldn't believe it was 11:30 already. Then 3:30. Then 5. Then game time.
I also cannot believe it's after Labor Day. September fourth. We're talking about magic numbers and Papelbon is being used for three days in a row. The Pawtucket callups are making an impression and it's 50 degrees at night.
In the past I've had that "I can't believe how the time has flown" as a sort of musing thought, or maybe when I'm making small talk with someone, and you have that empty, "Can you believe it's...?" discussion. But this year, I feel almost physical panic when I contemplate how quickly everything seems to have shifted into gear. I know for me it's going to feel like a blink before I'm singing Auld Lang Syne. Like there's not even time to take a deep breath and hang on tight before suddenly we're in the stretch run, traveling starts up for me at work again, wedding crap comes down to the wire, and we've gone from the dog days of August to a September in which all of a sudden, the Red Sox seem to have found the selves they replaced much earlier this year, the selves that mastered every minute detail of the game, from the legged-out infield hit to the dazzling outfield positioning to lights-out pitching and even a quirky three-bagger from a rookie.
It was just last week I was in the complete dumps about the Sox, and now, suffering from utter emotional whiplash, but the happy kind this time, I'm ascending the next curve of the roller coaster track as Papelbon gets two outs on five pitches in the ninth.
How delicious that his final victim is Lyle Overbay, who has done little to earn my affection this year. Overbay fouls one off, takes a ball way inside as Julian Tavarez of all people is warming up in the 'pen behind Jonathan. Just like you could tell Josh was still on top of things, Jonathan has a glint in his eye. They're giving him his head a little.*** Overbay takes a huge empty swing at a textbook split as the Fenway crowd rises to its feet.
The last pitch, a devastating heater right on the screws for called strike three, earns a crouching-double-fist-pump from Jonathan and another guttural roar from the Fenway crowd. There's an edge to their yell that I haven't heard in quite some time.
I can't believe it's already September.
*It was actually Julia, of "Alert Reader Julia" fame, who bought the TiVo, along with a fantastically generous 3 years of prepaid service, for me and my fiancee recently as a wedding present. I've already thanked her profusely in multiple ways and venues, but feel compelled to do it here again.
** They showed The Buchholz being lectured by John Farrell in the bullpen at Fenway today. He's going to the bullpen because there's really no way they can get away with demoting him back to Triple A, but he's still too little to be a starter, apparently. So we'll see how that goes.
*** Both Tito and Papelbon described Papelbon "begging" to go back out there tonight after the game.
Beckett on Papelbon via SportsDesk: "Whoda thought a little dumb redneck from Mississippi would be that good?"
I'm telling you. They LOVE each other.