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Congratulations to my fellow diehard citizens of Red Sox Nation.  We’ve sold out Fenway Park five hundred consecutive times! It’s a streak started six years ago, on May 15, 2003.  And it’s still going strong.  There was a big “500” cut into the outfield grass last night, and the focus was without a doubt on the fans.  John Henry said:

This record is the fans’ record, and we want to salute the members of Red Sox Nation for reaching this extraordinary milestone.  It’s a testament to the passion and dedication they have for the game, for the team, and for the ballpark.  Every day, we work hard to make sure that we are worthy of their loyal support.

That’s unique of the Red Sox organization: when the fans refer to the team as “we,” it’s because we’re actually part of it, much like all other aspects of the organization, and the brass recognizes that.  I mean, our record at home is 23-8 this season and 326-173 over those five hundred home games, both Major League bests, and we create that electric atmosphere that the players love, so we do our part.  Everyone does.  The brass came up to NESN’s broadcast booth and thanked the fans on the air, but we have them to thank as well for keeping us coming.  And our sponsors had giveaways every inning, each of five hundred products.  Thank-yous from the team played on the jumbotron during inning breaks.  Wakefield says we’re the twenty-sixth man.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say the organization is most definitely welcome, it’s our pleasure, and thank you as well.  So all in all it was a celebration of the fans but also of the organization as a whole.  And of course it was a celebration of the park and the team, because that’s really the whole point.

And the team punctuated the night in the park with a win.  For Penny, it was win number one hundred.  Five innings, no earned runs on three hits, four walks, and three strikeouts.  An inning shorter than usual but he threw exactly one hundred pitches due to various jams he had to work himself out of.  And it wasn’t without bumps and bruises.  In the first inning, Jeremy Hermida hit a line drive right into the left side of Penny’s chest.  It hit him so hard, the ball bounced to first base.  Masterson, Okajima, Ramirez, and Papelbon each worked an inning to finish it, Masterson and Okajima each earning holds.  I like that the depth of our bullpen is applied to the workloads of the relievers.  No sense in making just one guy shoulder four innings when you spread the work around.  It lets each reliever have some playing time, it confuses the opposition because they don’t see any one reliever too long, and it keeps the ‘pen fresh and ready to go for the next game.

The final score was 6-1, and that one unearned run was due entirely to Jacoby Ellsbury’s first career error.  It was a fielding error.  With two out in the first inning, Jorge Cantu hit a fly to left center.  Ellsbury reached out on the run, but the ball bounced off his glove.  This is a play he makes in his sleep, but unfortunately the streak couldn’t last forever.  at 232 games and 554 chances, it’s the longest streak in Red Sox history.  Add that to his Major League record-tying twelve putouts on May 20 against the Blue Jays, and he’s already got himself quite the fielding resume.  He also hit a deep home run last night to lead off the seventh inning.  His third of the season days after his second.  I like where this is going.

It appears that Pedroia is quickly becoming slump-free; he went three for five was batted in half our runs.  In the fourth he batted with the bases loaded and stroked a single to plate two of the three.  And he followed that with his second steal of the night, his twelfth of the season in sixteen attempts.  So he’s back to delivering.  Youk, not so much; he struck out three times and was swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, which for him is very unusual.  Ortiz hit, walked twice, and scored three runs.  Baldelli went two for three with a run and an RBI.  And in the fifth Green made a spectacular play in the field; he slid to catch a ball, and the rushed throw to first was right on target.  JD Drew had the night off because starting tonight we’ll face four straight right-handers, and Drew will be in for all four of those games.

Just to give you a bit of contrast, the Marlins were 0 for 15 with runners and scoring position and left eleven on base.

Last but not least, Jason Bay celebrated his own personal triumph: meeting Bobby Orr.  Orr came by the clubhouse before the game, but Bay, fellow Canadian and lifelong hockey fan, missed him somehow and was annoyed.  So Orr watched the sixth inning from inside the Green Monster, and when Bay came out to play left in the bottom of the frame, Orr emerged, shook his hand, and said, “Nice to meet you.” Number Four meeting and greeting Number Forty-Four.

All in all, that’s what I call a good night.  Brad Penny gets his 100th win.  The team gets it done.  Bobby Orr is on hand to see the team get it done.  Forty-nine years ago yesterday, Ted Williams hit his 500th home run.  And the whole organization celebrates continued unparalleled success with the 500th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park.  And the best part is that it goes on.  Ricky Nolasco at Lester tonight, and with the way Lester’s been pitching lately, this shouldn’t be a problem.  Hopefully, sellout number 501 will also be a win.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene
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If there is one thing I absolutely can not and will not stand for, it’s being in second place behind New York.  Good thing we won’t be in this position for long.  New York is not actually that good, and we are not actually that bad, so the fact that we are in this position doesn’t reveal anything because firstly it’s early in the season, secondly it’s only temporary, and thirdly it’s only by half a game.  Like I said, we know how the Skankees play; they enjoy a few hot streaks in the first half of the season, have a mediocre second half, surge to the forefront in September, and peter out in October.  The other thing that’s more applicable to the way we got into this is that there is no shame in losing to Toronto.  They were in first place not  too long ago, before we ousted them and they helped, so we lost to a worthy opponent.  There’s never any shame there.  So, yes, it’s true that we don’t have to worry about this particular standings situation in the long run, and it’s true that we have nothing to defend, but the fact that it’s New York still make it irritating.  Very irritating.

And in large part we have Wake to thank for that, surprising as it may seem.  We lost, 3-6, so the run support argument doesn’t work that well here.  Wakefield gave up five runs in the fifth inning.  That seems to be the trend lately, and I have to say I’m not a fan.  I don’t like our pitchers throwing beautifully through half the game and then blow it completely in just one frame.  Wake threw 4.2 innings, gave up all six runs on nine hits, walked four, and struck out five.  Bard and Saito stopped the damage, but it was too late.  Bard did have time to strike out five in a row, though, which rocked.

Ellsbury went two for five with two RBIs on a double, Bay went two for four, and Lugo went two for three.  And then Drew had what could be described as the ultimate hitter’s at-bat in the seventh inning.  The bases were empty, but there was only one out and he worked a hitter’s count: three and one.  What a perfect time for a home run, right? So what does JD Drew do? He hits a home run over the center field wall! And he’s right on schedule; we’re days away from the month of June  which, judging by last season, has the potential to bring out his best.  Pedroia missed a catch.  Didn’t really know that was possible.  Hey, I didn’t think it would be possible for the Yanks to give up fourteen runs in a single inning and twenty-two runs in a single game, but you learn new things everyday.

For George Kottaras, a native of Ontario, Canada, this was his first trip home.  He had a chance to catch up with his mother and even hit a double in the fourth to boot.  By the way, ever wonder what happened to Doug Mirabelli? Apparently he’s selling real estate in Michigan.

I’m very psyched to report that Tito is one hundred percent.  Fully healthy.  In Minnesota when he confronted Todd Tichenor his blood pressure shot up to the point where he felt very weak coming off the field.  He went to his office and couldn’t slow his heart down.  He thought he was going to pass out.  So doctors and medical techs looked at him, and eventually he calmed down and got over it.  He’s fifty, takes blood thinners, and has had medical issues in the past though so it was definitely a concern.  But I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we’re very happy to hear he’s back on track.

So there you have it.  We’re again done in by one horrendous inning.  And during that inning Wakefield looked like his old self, not the ace who’s been largely lights-out thus far.  A five-run fifth was not something I was prepared to see, but it’s something that, coming from him, felt all too familiar.  Luckily, that seems to be the anomaly, rather than the other way around.  Here’s to hoping it stays that way.  As far as tonight is concerned, it’ll be Penny at Brian Tallet, who’s nursing an ERA of 4.31.  Penny’s got an ERA of 5.96, but as we all know that’s very deceiving because he’s five and one and pitches way better than that.  But there is a bright side to all of this: in this series, Roy Halladay is not scheduled to pitch.  And that, my friends, is most definitely something to smile about.

AP Photo

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