You will see in short order that the title of this post couldn’t be dripping with more sarcasm, but you will also see eventually that somehow it’s strangely appropriate. Yesterday’s game was nothing short of excruciating. We won, but it was not easy. That was one of the most difficult games we’ve played this year. The whole monstrosity took five hours and seventeen minutes. That means that if you were driving from Boston to New York for the series opener on Tuesday and were listening to a complete replay of yesterday’s game on the radio, you could make that drive within the span of that game and would still probably have to sit in the car once you got there to finish it.
Well, let’s start from the beginning. I suggest you get comfortable. It’s going to be a long one.
The story starts with Beckett. Shoddy changeup, shoddy curveball, shoddy cutter. Brilliant two-seam, brilliant four-seam. Game-high twenty-three pitches in the sixth; the only other time he came close was twenty-one in the second. So his efficiency was there. He varied speeds, he attacked the zone. And yet he was saddled with his sixth no-decision of the season.
Beckett was removed after giving up a walk and a single in the seventh. All told, he pitched six innings, gave up three runs on four hits, walked three, and struck out four. He fired 102 pitches, fifty-eight for strikes. He made a wild pitch and hit a batter. So technically it wasn’t his best night, but it was far from his worst.
We scored first. With two out in the first, Gonzalez launched a changeup into the Monster. The pitch stayed up, and his timing was perfect, even given the wind.
Starting in the bottom of the second, every inning was one-two-three and nobody scored until the fifth, when we added another run. Crawford singled and scored on a single by Drew. In the sixth, Beckett let the A’s tie the game. After inducing a flyout to start it, he hit that batter, gave up a walk on four pitches, and made his wild pitch. A subsequent single brought in two.
We put ourselves ahead the very next chance we got. In the sixth, we scored three. Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Pedroia. Gonzalez struck out. Pedroia scored on a double by Youk. Papi grounded out. And Youk scored on a single by Crawford.
Albers replaced Beckett in the seventh and allowed one of his inherited runners to score. He was then replaced by Hottovy.
Both teams went down in order in the next two half-innings, thanks in his half to Bard. In the eighth, we picked up two more; Gonzalez singled, Papi doubled and was replaced by Reddick as a pinch-runner, and both scored on a double by Crawford.
So at this point, we were the very proud owners of a four-run lead. The rest of the game should have been a walk in the park (pun intended). But could Paps let us half our easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy win? Not in the least. Not even remotely in the least. That ninth inning was an unmitigated disaster.
He gave up a single and a walk. It took him seven pitches to notch the first out in the inning, an eventual strikeout. Then of course Pedroia had to make a fielding error, his third of the season, which allowed Coco Crisp of all people to reach base and a run to score. The ball had all the makings of the beginning of a routine double play that would end the game promptly with a win for us. Pedroia had to move toward second base to corral the ball anyway. But he didn’t. Instead – and these are words that no member of Red Sox Nation will ever feel comfortable hearing – the ball went through his legs, and the game continued. I think Paps’s reaction to that – crouching and covering his head in complete disbelief – pretty much says it all.
If Paps had rallied and ended the inning there, it wouldn’t have been his fault, and we still would have won. But it didn’t. He gave up a double that brought in another. And that’s when Tek lost it. He turned around and unleashed a verbal storm on home plate umpire Tony Randazzo, who in Tek’s eyes had been making questionable calls that inning that greatly affected the game. It was the fifth ejection of his career and his first since 2009. It was strange seeing him let loose like that. He’s usually so composed. But the way the game was going was bound to get to someone, and it wasn’t finished yet.
Salty came in to catch, and Paps allowed two more runs to score on a single that deflected at third. And then Paps lost it. Randazzo called a strike on Paps’s first pitch to Ryan Sweeney, but after receiving the ball, he sort of glared at him for a few seconds and looked away. So Randazzo started to make his way toward the mound. Salty made a move to keep Randazzo away and go to the mound to keep Paps stationary, but Paps would have none of it. Randazzo started talking, and Paps said something to Salty and then just went right past him and got right up in Randazzo’s face. Thankfully, Paps didn’t touch him. Tito had to come out and get in the way. Paps was ejected for the first time in his career. It’s funny; you would think that, with his personality, he would have had more, but he knows how to keep his composure when he needs to.
Jenks came in after that and gave up a single but followed with back-to-back K’s. He pitched the tenth and was replaced by Aceves in the eleventh. Aceves gave up a walk, a double, and a sac fly. So naturally it was do-or-die for us in the bottom of the inning. Lowrie struck out swinging. Drew struck out swinging. Salty doubled. And it was Ellsbury with the game-saving hit, a double that brought Salty home to preserve the tie at eight apiece. Without that hit, we would have lost, plain and simple.
Aceves pitched a one-two-three twelfth and thirteenth. He put two on base in the fourteenth.
Youk flied out to open the bottom of the inning. Cameron did the same. Then Crawford doubled, and Lowrie was intentionally walked. And of all the batters in our entire lineup, the one who had to come up at that moment was JD Drew. Two outs, bottom of the fourteenth, the game on the line, and you have stepping up to the plate a batter who had struck out four times in his previous four at-bats. He watched a fastball go by. Strike one. And we’re all thinking of his called strikeout that ended the ALDS for us in 2008. Fortunately, it was not to be. His next pitch was a fastball right down the middle, and he hit a single! It was so simple! One single, one run, one win! 9-8! Cue the walkoff mob! After all that, it was absolutely glorious.
Youk went two for five with two doubles. Gonzalez went three for five with his homer. Ellsbury and Crawford both went four for a whopping seven. And Drew, the unlikely man of the hour, went two for seven. But it was enough.
I am convinced that, if there were any team that could eke out a win under those circumstances, it would have been us and nobody else. You have to have matchless grit to play more than five hours of baseball, roll out the entire bullpen, lose two players through ejections, give up a lead, come back, and then finally win for good. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you separate the men from the dirt dogs. Plain and simple.
In other news, the Bruins lost to the Canucks, 3-2. Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic forced sudden death, but we lost there.
Boston Globe Staff/Jonathan Wiggs
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