Sunday, September 02, 2007

Game 136: A Moment of History

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 0

Robin wanted me to let you know that he made Clay Buchholz's no hitter happen. He called me last night in a state of high excitement and insisted that I let all of you know that his sacrifice meant that Clay could become the first Red Sox rookie in the history of some truly great Red Sox rookie pitchers to throw a no hitter. Sacrifice, you say? Yes, truly a Devil's bargain: Robin moved to Boston during the day, turned on the TV in the seventh, saw that Clay was knee-deep in a column of zeros and then made a willful decision to turn the TV off, to ignore the reams of voicemails and text messages spewing into his phone from excited family and friends looking to point out the possibility of a no-no and get on with it until the game was safely in the bag, with a ball on the way to that rack of no hitters in the Hall of Fame. He keep the jinx away and we salute him.

Ironically enough, after Clay hit Nick Markakis with a pitch in the first, my first thought was, "well, there goes the perfect game," a (admittedly weak) joke my friend Alan and I used to make whenever a pitcher didn't have a 1-2-3 first inning. Then Boston scored their first run in the bottom of the second when Coco FC'd Youkilis in from third and I had the odd fantasy that I always do whenever Boston goes up 1 - 0: what if Clay (and maybe a couple of relievers - let's not get greedy here) pitched a complete game, fraught with the tension of the close score and maybe a runner or two in scoring position. What can I say: I love the stomach-twisting anxiety of a pitcher's duel.

A couple of hours later, I watched Clay sit by himself in the dugout, while the Red Sox tacked on two more needless runs in the bottom of the eighth. The string of zeros had continued for much longer than any pitcher has the right to expect, Dustin Pedroia had made the incredible diving stop to keep the sliding Tejada from taking first in the top of the seventh and Clay was contemplating the field and the final three outs he had to make to enter history. He looked like he had swallowed a snake. I'd like to say that Clay's anxiety struck a chord with me and that I knew he'd get the job done so effectively that the last batter of the game would go down looking, but all I could think of was how human he looked just then and how wonderfully that contrasted with the machine he'd been on the mound. Who knows? Not to jinx anything, but one day we could all look back on this game the way we look at the two 20 strikeout games Clemens threw in 1986. And that would be very, very cool.