With the Rays, the fights are like road rage. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know you're locked in mortal combat with some schmuck who meant nothing to you five seconds ago.
With the Yankees, the fights are more like sibling rivalry. Sometimes it seems as though you're actually getting along, but spend too much time together, and annoyance turns into irascibility. Somebody's touching somebody else. A shove. A punch. Endless, petty bickering. Long memories of past slights. Admittedly assholish behavior, sometimes on both sides. All accompanied by the strangely comforting knowledge that the score will always be even in the end.
Tonight, though, Joba hogged the asshole spotlight with a plunking of Jason Bay that set Eckersley off, drenching the NESN booth in spittle. Until then, following a run-scoring jamboree for the Sox in the first, both pitchers settled into a businesslike duel, and everyone was well behaved. In fact, just before the plunking, I had started thinking, you know, things aren't nearly as contentious around here as they used to be.
The new Stadium contributed to that feeling, I think. I have never been to the old Yankee Stadium, but the particular tenor of its crowd on TV is a sound that's been burned into my cerebral cortex, and these games have sounded different. The Eck theorized that the sound in the new Stadium is different because of the shallower slopes of the upper decks compared to the old place. It might also be because this new Stadium was half-empty for most of these games, all but the die-hards (like Spike Lee) chased out of the stands by rain.
Josh Beckett put in a workmanlike six innings and change, but it still wasn't the dominating redemption we've all been looking for. The most notable thing about this outing, really, was the lengthy delay in the sixth inning while the grounds crew resurfaced the mound for him. He put the tying run on in the seventh, and then turned his back in disgust on Tito approaching from the dugout. His walk off the field was slow and stone-faced, showered in boos and rain.
In the dugout he thunked a batting helmet down on the bench, but for Josh, as Eck put it, "that's a minor snap." It was halfhearted at best.
In the end, Joba and his band of merry men never could drag themselves out of the hole that had been dug in the top of the first. Against the Bombers' mediocre bullpen, the Sox tacked on three more runs as the Stadium emptied, then sent in our Backup Closer™ for mop-up duty. The Elf added an exclamation point at the end with a ranging putout from shortstop territory for the final, soggy out.
Beginning with Beckett's minimal tantrum, the rest of the game was totally anticlimactic. The simmering tensions that followed the Bay drilling were also dampened by the evening showers. But I'm sure there are a few people with that whole incident tucked in their back pocket, for when it eventually comes score-evening time.
Meanwhile, this game carried a body count of another kind. Jorge Posada and Kevin Youkilis were scratches before the festivities began, the former with a hammy and the latter with a sore lower back brought on by an awkward swing. Finally, Jacoby Ellsbury added to the attrition by tweaking his leg somehow in a futile dive for the ball in the third inning.