It’s good to be back. It’s so good to be back. We really needed the team to be at home, and we needed the healing effects of the pre-game ceremony which, as usual, was perfect. There was a video tribute to the marathon and the victims of the tragedy as well as the photographs of the brave law enforcement officials who did all that they could for them and for this city. And then there were photos of how it all ended. Victims of the tragic events as well as law enforcement threw the ceremonial first pitch. The American flag flew, the national anthem played, Neil Diamond led the singing of “Sweet Caroline,” Papi made a very heart-felt announcement, and Bailey even took a page from Jonathan Papelbon’s book, taking the mound for the ninth to the tune of “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. It was truly an event of healing, of contemplation, and of class. And it served as yet another reminder of what a remarkable place this city is and how strong our community is. We are and will always be Boston strong.
And then it was time for the healing power of escape, facilitated by this game and this team we all know and love.
Buchholz, who repeatedly looked up to watch the moving video during his warmup, pitched eight full innings of two-run ball. He gave up eight hits, walked one, and struck out six. He threw 104 pitches, seventy of which were strikes. That is ridiculously efficient; we consider pitchers efficient if they get through seven innings with one hundred pitches, and most pitchers on most teams consider themselves lucky if they get through five or six innings with one hundred pitches.
Buchholz had a one-two-three inning in the first, third, and fourth. He gave up a single in the second and his first run in the fifth as a result of a double-flyout-single combination. He gave up a double to lead off the sixth and a double that turned into a run thanks to a triple in the seventh. He gave up a single and his only walk of the game in the eighth.
Bailey’s ninth was quite a close call. He gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning and gave up a single and a walk over the course of the rest of it while recording the three outs he needed to close the deal. If we didn’t have a two-run lead at the time, that home run would have tied it up.
We were one run behind by the time we finally scored; we didn’t get on the board until the sixth. Pedroia walked in the first, and Napoli walked in the second, which was erased thanks to a double play. We went down in order in the third, and Papi, fresh off the DL, singled in the fourth (his at-bat in the first ended with a flyout). Nava walked and Drew singled in the fifth, our biggest thus far, if you could call it that.
Finally, the sixth rolled around. Ellsbury led it off with a single, moved to second on a sac fly by Victorino and then third on a groundout by Pedroia, and scored on another single by Papi. We’d tied the game with that run but entered the seventh down by one yet again. Nava got hit but was picked off trying to steal second; Middlebrooks singled, Drew reached on a force attempt, and if Nava hadn’t been picked off, the bases would have been loaded for Salty, who popped out.
We blew it as open as it was ever going to be in the eighth, when we were down by two. Gomes led it off with a double, Pedroia walked, and Papi grounded into a double play. But then Napoli walked, and Nava took a four-seam for a strike and another four-seam for a ball. Then he got all of an eighty-eight mile-per-hour changeup that he sent beyond the right field fence. The ball needed the encouragement of Nava yelling, “Stretch!” in order to get out. Maybe it was Nava really wanted to make up for getting picked off, maybe it was baseball physics, or maybe it really was the will of everyone there who really wanted to win this one. Either way, one swing. Three runs. Done. The final score was 4-3. We needed this one. This one was for us.
The Bruins were also back in action, unfortunately losing to the Penguins, 3-2.