Back on April 10, Denton at Surviving Grady wrote about falling asleep during a game and having a very strange dream that combined the Red Sox with the Brad Pitt movie Troy:
Big Papi was wrecking shop on the Tigers; the last I saw of him he was holding Magglio Ordonez by the hair and brandishing a giant silver broadsword. Julian Tavarez charged into the Tiger bullpen with his shield held high baring his teeth, but otherwise weaponless. Dustin Pedroia - looking quite fetching in his skirt...I mean tunic - was picking off the enemy mercilessly with a bow and arrow, Orlando Bloom style. During the mayhem, Johnny Pesky stood on top of the Red Sox dugout, ensconced in velvet, calling down the power of Zeus. Under the stands, Red Sox minions were busy constructing a giant George Steinbrenner statue to bring into Yankee Stadium next week.
I bring that up again for two reasons. The first is that I had a Red Sox dream of my own this weekend.
I was driving my car, and Jonathan Papelbon was in the passenger seat, in full uni, including hat, jacket and spikes, probably because I have a hard time picturing any of the players in street clothes. I have no idea where we were going, but we were rocking out to Metallica's "Unforgiven", probably because of a little spot Paps did for FOX the other weekend where he mentioned that Metallica's one of his favorites (we have that in common). He couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, something I spent some time trying to help him with and even more time just making fun of him about.
In retrospect, our time might have been better used discussing pitch selection, because I think big-league hitters are catching up to his fastball, and he appears to have Josh Beckett Disease when it comes to mixing in the splitter and slider.
The other reason I bring up Denton's subconscious vision is that it's a pretty apt description of how the Red Sox handled the series this weekend against the Texas Rangers.
Top Ten Moments of the Rangers Series
10. Javy Lopez escapes a jam - Little by little, the Red Sox bullpen has been worming its way out of its funk. Javy Lopez has been a member of the Anyone Other than Okajima and Papelbon Club that Red Sox fans have dreaded coming out of the bullpen this season, but his appearance in the 8th in relief of Mike Timlin on Saturday turned out to be clutch. With two men in scoring position, Lopez got a ground-out from Josh Hamilton to end the inning, keeping the score 3-2. The Red Sox would come back to make the final 5-3; had Lopez not sacked up when he did, they would have been looking at extra innings rather than a late-inning win.
9. Jon Lester rallies - Long before Lopez appeared in Saturday's game, Jon Lester also provided some important sack-up-itude. He gave up a run in each of the first three innings, and the last one handed the Rangers back the lead after the Red Sox had been ahead, 2-1. The angst of this was writ large on Lester's face, and between innings, John Farrell did everything but grab the young lefty by the ear in the dugout, giving him a lengthy lecture that included exasperated gestures from both parties. After that tough love from his coach, Lester returned to the field with just the tiniest injection of Commander Kickass somewhere in his personality, grimly and determinedly tossing another four scorless innings. If the measure of a pitcher is how he makes adjustments, Jon Lester showed us a big-league adjustment Saturday night.
8. Jacoby's center field catch - Lester might have handed the Rangers the lead an inning earlier had it not been for Ellsbury's range on a running catch in center field that ended the second inning. The big fireworks (and top moments on this list) came from the bats this series, but the kind of run prevention the Red Sox are showing is an equally important part of their success so far.
7. Papi beats it out at first - Even better news than Big Papi's more productive bat this series was the health he's obviously feeling in his legs. On Saturday, he beat out an infield single to reach first safely, scoring Pedroia and keeping the Sox rally alive; Sunday, he did a similar thing on a single to shallow right. Given the monstrosity that is Manny at the plate this season, the prospect of Papi feeling his oats has me downright salivating.
6. The double steal - Bottom of the fifth, Sunday, April 20. Men on first and second for the Sox. Those men in particular: Jacoby Ellsbury and Julio Lugo, the most prominent among the new generation of running Red Sox, who proceeded to help themselves to second and third, respectively. Jacoby is now 6 for 6 this season, 15 for 15 for his career, which ties a club record set by Lee Tinsley, who went 15 for 15 to begin his stint with Boston in 1994-95 (source). And in case it hasn't been said enough by now: these ain't your Daddy's Red Sox.
5. Dustin Pedroia's double - It's funny how the news of the Bruins' hard-fought win against Montreal (we even switched back and forth to the hockey game during the baseball game, something we never do) seemed to energize the Sox Saturday night. The Sox only began their comeback in the eighth after the news about the B's was announced, and Fenway stirred to life again. You're not supposed to put any stock in coincidences like that, but it's hard to ignore that in this case, the crowd came alive just before the team did, and the cause and effect seemed to be there - you could even see it in the way the players moved around more busily in the dugout as the crowd got louder.
With one out in the eighth and the Sox still down by a run, Pedroia got the run-scoring party started with a double off the top of the Green Monster that just barely missed being a home run. Undaunted (as always), Pedroia cruised into second with a message for Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler: "I crushed that one."
In addition to instantly becoming my favorite Pedroia moment since his "That fuckin hurt!" reaction to sliding into third last year, Pedroia's intimidation strategy also seemed to be effective. Clearly thrown by Pedroia's aggressive style, Kinsler dove and missed the next liner from Papi, which scored the Happy Scrappy Hero Pup to tie the game, and earned him more cuddles from Manny in the dugout, which is either the source of Pedroia's power, or its reward, and frankly, I don't give a damn which one it is.
4. Dustin Pedroia's triple - Okay, not really a triple, but as the little big man himself would probably say, same dif. Once again it was the eighth; this time it was Josh Hamilton who did the flubbing in center field, allowing Pedroia to reach third, score David Ortiz, and tie the game. Said Pedroia afterwards: "Manny gave me a big hug when I got in here, but he hugs me every day, so I don't know what that means."
To say I am enjoying this new subplot to the clubhouse chemistry would be a vast, vast understatement.
3. Sean Casey's bases-loaded walk FTW - Sean Casey has gotten a lot of mileage out of his blind crawl back to second base at Yankee Stadium last week, but I think many of us out here in Soxfanland are getting a little itchy to see Casey let loose a little more with his bat; I'd love it for no other reason than to see what his reaction would look like. When he came up to the plate yesterday with the potential to knock in the go-ahead runs, everyone was exhorting him to lose one in the seats. Instead, Casey took a very gentlemanly walk from the hapless Wes Littleton to score Pedroia for the go-ahead (and eventually winning) run. Guess that's just his style.
2. Manny's two-run homer - The only bigger home run that I've personally seen this season was the bomb Manny used to violate Mike Mussina last week in New York. The only bigger blast than that was Manny's homer in Game 2 of the ALDS last year, which may be the biggest homer I've ever personally seen. The two-run job that Manny hit on Saturday night, from what looked like his shin level to somewhere among the rooftops of Lansdowne St., had a similar trajectory to the others: deep into left field, clearing everything on its way to parts unknown.
1. Papi's grand slam - Unfortunately, Manny finds himself on the wrong end of a Prodigal Son situation when it comes to homers this weekend, because I know the one everyone will remember today was the one hit by Big Papi on Friday night.
I've been pining for it; you've been pining for it; even Don Orsillo has been pining for it, judging by his call just before Papi hit it: "Now would be a good time for Papi to break out." It wasn't as massive a moon shot as Manny's by a wide margin--in fact, it only cleared the Monster by a few more feet over Pedroia's double--but it was the kind of homer, situationally speaking, that the Sox have been missing over the last year or so: the kind which brings home baserunners.
Papi's slam was also notable because of the runners it plated: Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, all of whom had set the table exactly as they've been raised to do, all of whom are products of the Red Sox organization and its minor-league scouting.
Overall, this series continued a string of late comebacks from the Sox, suggesting that even though 95% of the personnel has not changed, this year's squad has a very different personality than last year's. Last year, an underperforming offense made late-inning deficits seem less and less surmountable as the season wore on; the 2008 Sox have demonstrated that they can, and will, come back.