Does this game even really deserve a recap? Sigh. I guess since I was there and all...
Quite possibly the single worst, most boring yet infuriating Red Sox contest in recent memory, and that's saying a lot. I entered the ballpark with half a hope that the Sox might choose tonight to be one of their "bats suddenly come alive" games, especially since they were facing another one of the worst teams in the known universe, the Orioles, and that had worked out well for them with the Seattle Mariners.
I had also had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day to that point, and was hoping they'd cut me some slack, just for that night. Obviously the division and playoffs weren't even part of the picture -- I just wanted them to give me a break.
And, well. You can see how that worked out.
The second it was announced that Daisuke was pitching (obviously not something I'd checked before arriving), I replied, to no one in particular, "Aw, f---." I knew right then and there I was in for an evening of tinfoil-chewing.
I no longer know what to make of Daisuke. There are starts he seems to have put together the whole, "Don't take 15 seconds to come to the plate every time" concept and the "stop freaking walking everyone for the love of Pete" idea, and then...there are starts like this.
Sam and I were shocked by the time the 5th inning finally, langorously, lazily, sloooooooowly rolled around that Daisuke had only recorded three walks to that point. It felt like so much more than that. Dice would continue the torture for another inning and a third, finishing with a total of 6 hits and 5 walks. It's actually kind of a miracle that only 4 of those 11 baserunners crossed the plate, a miracle probably only explained by Baltimore's own ineptitude.
What I will remember most about the game itself are popups. Lots and lots of popups. Again and again, with runners on, Red Sox hitters stepped to the plate, went through their glove-tugging, foot-tapping routines, stared determinedly out at Orioles pitching, took MIGHTY RINGING HACKS...and then sent the ball approximately a mile straight up into the sky.
There were foul popups, fair popups, popups that drifted into the outfield. The sections around us were busy with a barrage of foul screamers off Red Sox bats. Millar Home Runs were plentiful. When it came to hitting last night, the Sox couldn't win for losing. Daisuke was shaky and tough to watch, but the Orioles never had more than a two-run lead over the Sox. And the Sox just couldn't make up that ground.
Meanwhile, it's still clear to me that a different milieu is at Fenway these days than there has been in the recent past. A louder, more blue-collar, more enthusiastic crowd, a crowd that took advantage of the chance to sing "Sweet Caroline" because this might be their only chance this season, regardless of what was actually happening in the game. A crowd that even included a few Orioles fans, who made a great show of cheering loudly for the Orioles from the grandstand, which I had to give them credit for -- turnabout is fair play, after all.
But that's when another kid behind us in the grandstand responded by standing up and performing an alligator-armed, HIGHLY un-PC imitation of those Orioles fans (who were, I must point out, trying to make "O's" into a multi syllable word).
This response was so loud, so exaggerated, and so completely obnoxious that it stopped the O's fans dead in their tracks. It was their notice that they were dealing with a level of fan derangement here that they probably hadn't previously imagined. They may have thought they were giving us all a taste of our own medicine, but only until that Fenway denizen proved capable of a response that was so deeply, unabashedly rude that they couldn't help but be gobsmacked, realize they were out of their league, sit down, and shut up.
In a way, I was perversely proud.
On the way home, though plenty of fans had left before the game finally ground to its miserable close, my D line train was still packed full of r-dropping drunks who happily sang and wisecracked to one another throughout the ride.
See, these are Red Sox fans. Their defiant swagger despite the team's fate was remeniscent of the "Curse" era. As was the drunkenness. They really haven't "lost their identity" -- they're still as drunk, rowdy, fiercely loyal and sarcastic as they've always been -- I'm still willing to bet many just haven't been able to get into the damn park for most of the last six years. Others may have been obscured among amateur and 'status' fans.
But really. They haven't gone away.
It's an acquired taste, I realize, and my affection for it probably has more to do with being a born and bred Masshole myself, and feeling at home, than anything really admirable about it. But as with the last game I attended, there was a nostalgia and a coziness about this less-formal Fenway that I may miss a little when they start winning again, and the "Ha ha, Buffay..." crowd returns to be "seen".