While waiting for the Red Sox to start, we tuned in to the Yankees / Indians game just in time to see Joba Chamberlain, swarmed by hundreds of tiny insects, flailing on the mound. The batters were flailing, too. Oddly, the insect infestation only seemed to affect the players on the field; the players in the dugout and fans in the stands did not seem to be similarly plagued.
Far be it from me to actually feel sorry for a Yankee, least of all Joba, but...I kind of did. I felt sorry for everybody playing in that game. They zoomed in to show the bugs covering Joba's neck several times, and every time, I got the shivers. If it were me, I'd probably need to be chased down somewhere around right field as I ran around aimlessly shooing and screaming--forget about throwing strikes down the middle.
Thus tortured and distracted by the insects, Joba lost all feel for the strike zone, and began unleashing downright dangerous 99-mph heaters in a much more general vicinity of the plate than is his habit. One of them, an abortive pitch in the dirt, bounced just underneath the leg of Jorge Posada as he lunged to block it, and Grady Sizemore slid past an onrushing Joba at the plate to score the tying run.
"See, I like a Yankees loss as much as the next person," I told my friend Ryan. "But when they have an excuse, it's not as fun."
"Faaack 'em." was his rejoinder.
Well. When you put it like that.
Even as the Sox game was getting under way on TNT, we kept flipping back to check on TBS. "I don't want to miss the walkoff," Ryan kept saying.
Mariano Rivera came on. The bugs swarmed around him just as thickly at first, but I never saw his focus waver, even for a second. He was lights out.
But so was Cleveland's Rafael Perez. The game headed to extras.
As the game in Cleveland crashed up against the beginning of the game in Boston, we'd go back to the Sox just long enough to determine that they didn't require our full and undivided, and then plunge ourselves back into the searing, extra-innings hell that was that game at the Jake.
Despite Josh Beckett's outstanding performance and Big Papi's moon shot on Wednesday, for whatever reason I wasn't feeling that postseason "burn" just yet. I wasn't tempted to reach for a paper bag once; my portable defibrillator unit gathered dust. I was expecting drama, comebacks, epic baserunning maneuvers on both sides, diving catches, and Steven Tyler singing "Sweet Emotion" on the top of the visitors' dugout in the middle of the eighth inning. Instead, it felt like the Sox were just...cruising.
Don't get me wrong, I've never seen the likes of that game from the Sox in the postseason, and if possible, I now consider Josh Beckett even more of a golden god than I did before. If anything, Wednesday's game removes some of the divisions I'd made in my mind between Beckett and some of his elders, including Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. But I'm not the only one who felt like Wednesday's game lacked a certain tension that I've come to expect in October.
Between the Bug-Fest in Cleveland and what would ensue in the Sox game last night, though, the second night of the ALDS gave us all the heartburn-inducing action we could handle.
First, out in Ohio, Travis Hafner came to bat against Luis Vizcaino with the bags juiced--he was the eighth hitter of the inning. "Pronk", as he is called, towered in the left batters' box, even his mighty cudgel of black ash looking like a toy in his hands. He seemed to have to hunker down to swing.
Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two outs. Full count.
We hyperventilated. And it wasn't even our game.
In the next second, before Hafner's game-winning single to right had even hit the grass, the TBS play-by-play man was shouting, "INDIANS WIN!" Kenny Lofton stomped the plate for emphasis, as teammates ran out of the dugout to mob him, and all around them the Jake had a Stage IV nuclear meltdown. Vizcaino walked slowly off the field, his only betrayal of emotion a slight lifting of his cap to wipe sweat from his brow.
And then, Trot Nixon came in to view, near the bottom of our screen. He dropped one shoulder and shoved his way into the huddle of bouncing, shouting teammates, caught up in the moment like the rest of them.
It? Was glorious. And it still wasn't even our game.
More on our game, coming right up...