Can't really call it the longest game ever. But at more than six and a half hours if you arrived on time for the original 1:35 pm start and stayed until the bitter end, this double rain-delayed game was longer than the longest 9-inning game on record (August 18, 2006, Sox vs. Yankees, 4:45), and only an hour and change shy of the longest extra-inning game on record (May 8, 1984, White Sox vs. Brewers, 8:06 over two days). It was so long my ridiculously sunburn-prone self managed to get slightly sunburned, and it was overcast the whole time (not making this up.)
And, okay, it wasn't the longest rain delay ever, either. Fans in other cities have been treated to worse -- The Chicago White Sox also delayed a game 7.5 hours before calling it off on August 12, 1990. The longest delay in a game that resumed was 3:39, Giants vs. Mets, July 23, 1994.
But it was a personal record. I'm pretty sure that was the most time I've spent at Fenway in one sitting, especially for a single 9-inning game.
When we first showed, I was convinced we'd be let in long enough to buy our required beer and beverage each, and then sent back to a lazy rainy Sunday afternoon at home. No such luck. Instead, we waited until 3:15 for the game to begin. Two innings were played, and then in a driving downpour the tarp was pulled back onto the field again. And about five minutes later (not an exaggeration), the skies closed up again. Not a drop was falling by 4:30. Play finally resumed, as the temperature began to drop and gusting winds rubbed in the chill, at 5:05.
I thought I had it tough, but I really can't imagine what it must've been like to be Clay Buchholz today. He was just beginning to feel his way through the game (cutter and changeup his most effective pitches, particularly the changeup. He was locating his fastball well. The curveball, still not so much) when the rain came. When he re-emerged and had to wait in the right-field corner for the grounds crew to get the tarp out of his way before he could begin warming up again, he pounded the baseball he was holding into his glove in visible aggravation.
While his counterpart, Shaun Marcum, fell apart two innings after the game resumed, Buchholz weathered all of that (no pun intended), and turned in nothing but goose eggs for his side of the scoreboard. He got a mound visit after two hits opened the top of the sixth, shortly after Marcum left the field tagged with three, and I thought, okay, here we go...the two had gone toe-to-toe to that point, and it wouldn't have been too surprising to see them tire together as well.
Buchholz retreated behind the mound, kicking the shoe brush with a bit too much vigor. V-Mart followed him, and when Buchholz didn't immediately turn, pretended to see something interesting on the rubber until the pitcher finally gave him his attention. John Farrell trotted out to meet them both, and they talked through their gloves for a while.
Then Buchholz turned and hummed in a first-pitch strike to Adam Lind. Lind did not go quietly, and neither did the next two hitters, but one by one, Buchholz worked his way through them. Strikeout, lineout, groundout. Six innings pitched, seven strikeouts, five hits (!!), zero runs.
The five hits are proof of what my gut also told me watching this effort from Buchholz -- this, like some of his other recent starts, was not his best game. He didn't have his best stuff. Either he's doing something different with his curveball, or he's having trouble locating it for some reason; maybe there's been so much effort expended on weaning him off what was once his only "plus" pitch that he's lost his feel for it temporarily. But the talented bundle of neuroses that first donned a Red Sox uniform three years ago has turned into a professional pitcher. There's at least as much mind as arm and instinct to Clay Buchholz now, and he's beaten nearly all comers with that combination this season.
Buchholz's effort might've been for naught had the offense not found a way to solve Marcum. The rally began when David Ortiz hustled his way to third as the ball rolled around in the triangle, leading off the bottom of the fifth. Adrian Beltre followed with a double that scored the game's first run.
They kept working at Marcum, advancing Beltre to third with a groundout by Lowrie to bring up Bill Hall.
"Hit the balll, Bill Hallll, hit the balll..." some women behind me began chanting, punctuated with a clap-clap.
And hit it he did, so high and so far that at first I thought it was a pop-up, and then had lost it in the net between our seats and the plate and the cloudy sky, as had most people in my section. We squinted at the people in the Monster seats, waiting for their reaction. When we saw fists go up in triumph there, we followed suit. 3-0 Red Sox.
At the last moment, in the bottom of the 8th, they tacked on two more, the first at the injured hands of Victor Martinez, who back in the second inning had just elected to suck it up and continue playing, after Jose Bautista's backswing hit him on the previously-broken thumb of his glove hand, when the second rain delay began. An hour's wait in the rain and six innings later, he was not only still catching, but getting key hits, to boot.
If we're going to tear players apart when they don't play hurt, it's time to start acknowledging it more when they do. Let's not underestimate the amount of pain V-Mart must've been feeling today, and what he contributed in spite of it.
Overall, the last week for the Sox has not been a disaster, but it has also been far from the miraculous run they really should've started by now if they wanted to up their chances significantly of making the playoffs. The math is not final yet, with six games left against both the Rays and Yankees and a six-run deficit in the division, but it remains a distinct long shot. The division rivals have yet to cooperate and collapse, and the Sox may have put two of the final nails in the coffin when the Jays beat them Thursday and Friday night like Joe Pesci at the end of Casino.
But they're still fighting, and I keep watching. At this point, I don't think any of us knows what else there is to do.