Notes on a smackdown --
Top 1st. A cold, raw mist hangs over Boston and Fenway Park. Hard to tell if the first boos are for Mark Teixeira at bat or A-Rod, making his first appearance at Fenway this year, appearing in the on-deck circle.
Bottom 1st. Heidi Watney, in layers of wool, talks over highlights of Jacoby Ellsbury sliding into second on his right shoulder, then sliding in the outfield on his right shoulder, then with a hand on said shoulder in the dugout, raising his arm. Mark Kotsay in center tonight. The Sox leave the bases untouched in the inning.
Top 2nd. A high fastball. Jorge Posada looks physically overpowered by the pitch, rocked back on his heels as he puts an awkward swing on it and fouls it off Varitek's mask. Josh Beckett's face is downright insouciant as he looks in for the sign, as if he knows an embarrassing secret about each hitter. Posada takes strike three.
Bottom 2nd. You don't even want to believe it at first, after so many months of mighty hacks a split second after fastballs pass, fly balls that die on the warning track, and weak grounders into the shift. It feels unreal somehow, like someone has triggered a glitch in the matrix, and suddenly the Big Papi who hits bombs is standing there at the plate, in that unmistakable home run pose. And there he goes, into that Cadillacking home run trot, and only a full three seconds after it happens does the two-run bomb to straightaway center even register as 'reality'. And then there's another familiar feeling, of an earlier vintage: an insistent little butterfly of hope, which will not be deterred by your better judgment.
Between innings: The Sox topped off with two more runs after Papi's jack, aided by generous favors from A-Rod. Between innings he throws such a tantrum NESN shows a replay of it a few innings later. Really, all that's missing is mascara running down his face.
Top 3rd. Jeter manages to look even more foolish than Posada did, with an alligator-armed swing at that impossible Beckett two-seamer that fouls the ball directly off his right instep. He literally looks like a marionette with its strings tangled.
Bottom 3rd. Mike Lowell misses a sign (it's theorized), is forced to carry out the abortive steal, belly-flopping into the dirt directly into the tag of Jeter. Eck: "Who do you think missed the sign?" DO: "Varitek." Eck: "Thank you." Tek works a respectable walk. New theory: a top-secret scientific experiment that went horribly awry before Opening Day, resulting in Varitek and Papi accidentally switching bodies, has finally been successfully reversed.
Top 4th.You'd never know Josh had been sitting in the clammy cold for 20 minutes. "Ya gotta be careful with Johnny down and in like that," says Eck of Damon, "that's his happy zone that he one arms ya sometimes, to that short porch, that ball's too far inside. He's got some power down and in." I think we're pretty much all in agreement here - if we can't have the Rem-Dawg, the Eck is the next best thing.
Beckett barks at the ump over an iffy pitch a bit inside. Unleashes the two-seamer with a look like he's pretending Varitek's glove is the umpire's face. Called strike three. "He could patent this ball right here," is how the Eck describes it. Next victim.
A walk to Teixeira, but then he smacks down A-Rod on three straight curveballs. The first two A-Rod takes, and on the third one he goes down swinging. Catcalls follow him back to the dugout.
Dustin Pedroia hurls himself, sternum first as usual, onto the ground, smothering a grounder from Robinson Cano. He bungles the exchange, then chases the ball into right field while the runner reaches.
Mid 4th. Dustin Pedroia does not pitch a fit in the dugout.
Bottom 4th. It's still only the bottom of the fourth freakin' inning. How long has it been now, six hours?
Top 5th. Beckett's curveball is possessed. He's just busting it over the corners, rapid fire, daring them over and over to hit it. "Piece of cheese," Eck gushes. "Paintball."
Mid-5th. In booth shot, it would seem Eckersley has been spoken to about the chi-space issue.
Bottom 5th. Posada manages to muff a throw back to the pitcher. That's about all that happens.
Top 6th. Beckett carves up Teixeira, who tries to argue he checked his swing as Beckett swaggers off the field. Whether he swung was a moot point. 96 on the inside corner for his 8th and,it would turn out, final strikeout of the night.
Bottom 6th. Beckett argues with Tito in the dugout. He's looked brilliant, but he's been up and down a lot and seemed to be grimacing as he walked off the field. Or maybe that was an evil grin. Sometimes it's kind of hard to tell.
Tito finally pats Beckett on the chest, his usual sign for, "That's nice, son, now give me the ball."
6IP. 1H. 0ER.
Top 7th. Kotsay makes an adventurous backpedaling catch in center field. Afterwards, he looks vaguely nauseous.
Bottom 7th. Nick Green tacks on a Monster shot for good measure.
*A real pub in Edinburgh. And Fenway Park tonight, under the proprietorship of Josh Beckett.