It's been an especially intense day around here. The water was finally safe to drink again, meaning millions of coffee addicts were finally able to get their Starbucks or Dunkies fix, and could finally stop getting into punchouts with each other at the grocery store over cases of Poland Spring. As if that wasn't enough, tonight, the baseball addicts in Red Sox Nation also got a wallop of beautiful baseball.
It began with a taut eight-inning pitchers' duel between Jon Lester and Ervin Santana. Both lineups resorted to the kind of small-ball scrapping that tells you they are under siege from a true monster on the mound, just hunkering down and trying to take advantage of mistakes until the bullpen comes around. Jon Lester continued the rampage he began in Toronto, clenching his jaw through 8 innings on 120 economical pitches tonight while surrendering just one run.
On top of that, at long last we saw Run Prevention in action this evening, with a breathtaking play from Dustin Pedroia to end a bases-loaded, one-out eighth. I have seen some dispute over whether Pedroia tagged the runner, but I have to believe that if there was really a case to be made for that, Mike Scioscia would've been out there flipping out about it before any of the rest of us noticed it. And in any event, Pedroia's diving, scrambling, flipping masterpiece was the most thrilling play I'd seen since Marco Scutaro's incredible ranging throw from the hole in the fourth.
There was ugliness, hideousness, even, as David Ortiz twice came to the plate with runners on, and both times grounded into a double play. The best I can do right now is allow him the dignity of not discussing it or the boo-birds much further.*
Because no sooner had Papi trudged off the field, head bowed, than young Jeremy Hermida strode to the plate, and finally delivered the killing blow the park had been jonesing for the whole night, and I'll tell you, no matter how obnoxious some of our fellow frequenters of Fenway Park can sometimes be, for all the nasty GIDPs and defensive lapses of this season, there really is nothing like the moment some crucial, timely hit goes rocketing off toward the outfield, and that place just explodes.
Kevin Youkilis was jumping up and down like a little boy in the on-deck area, waving his arms in great semicircles around his head to signal to his teammates whether they should stand up or slide coming into home. Jon Lester, in the dugout, asked of those around him, "Is that fair or foul? Is it fair? Yes?" and then he, too, was subsumed in the wave of hysteria, pumping his fist and yelling like any one of the fans who were rattling the grandstand. "YEAH!!"
I think it's safe to say every one of us really needed that. Without a doubt, the best game of the season so far.
* Except to say: I don't care how bad he is, that shit ain't right. If I could ban you from Fenway Park forever, I would. If I could take tonight's joy away from you somehow, I would. But like I said on Twitter, I also became pretty jaded to this when I saw a "fan" heckle Keith Foulke to the point of a verbal altercation, a year after the guy left his knees on the field winning a World Series for which he should have been MVP, but wasn't. (Not that I'm, um, bitter or anything.) I figured it was pretty much only a matter of time before even Papi was turned on by the Fenway crowd. And to be honest, virtually any other player would've been turned on long before this point.