Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Game 146: Red Sox as Tragedy

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 16, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 10

After Pedroia hit the home run that finally tied the game in the sixth inning, I called up Robin, who was busy dominating a trivia night at a bar, and compared this game to a Greek tragedy, a comparison stemming from the progression of stages in the classic tragic form, proceeding from the Aristotelian mistake (starting a seemingly ailing Wakefield, Wakefield's lifeless knuckleball, etc.) to the dramatic change in fortune (the comeback). Then we left the canon a bit for the glorious surmounting of all difficulties (Pedroia's homer; Youkilis's go-ahead triple) and resultant victory, but by that point it was clear to all we were witnessing sport as theater - and it was damn good.

The first stage was full of enough hubris to give income to whole host of book-writing, finger-wagging moralists, who would be happy to trot out all kinds of clich├ęs about egg counting and chicken hatching. However, to expect any less of Wakefield would be inexcusable; the man dominates that team with a vengeance. True, he's more likely to hold them hitless in the Trop than at Fenway (which makes me wonder what his career would have been like had he been a Devil Ray), but the safe money was on a close game between the reliable Wakefield and Rays starter Sonnanstine, who had an ERA of around 1.50 in his last three starts.

Of course, safe money was wrong money tonight and as the full extent of the damage unfolded, I will confess to more than a little frustration at the situation. Scott Kazmir is one thing, but losing to the worst team in baseball two nights in a row at home is a disgrace for any team with playoff pretensions. Ellsbury's home run in the third shone a small ray of hope and made Sonnanstine a more human target, but the Rays quickly extinguished that hope by doubling their score in the top of the next inning. Hopelessness settled in and settling for another loss seemed likely.

The transition to the second stage, the change in fortune, came slowly, as the Red Sox slowly drove the Rays' starter to the showers by singling him to death. Four runs score and the light of hope flickers. Tampa Bay answers with another run in the fifth, but Boston comes roaring back with another four in the bottom of the inning and pulls the seemingly insurmountable lead down to one run. There's momentum now and with four innings to go, the truth is inescapable: the Red Sox are going to win this game, no matter how many times Rays manager Joe Maddon stumps out to the mound, looking like he wished he'd never heard of baseball, to switch relievers in an effort to put out the fire.

Boston can't get it done in the fifth, but Dustin Pedroia takes the third pitch he sees in the sixth and hammers it into the Monster Seats to tie things up. Single, single and a walk follow and with do-or-die on the line, Youkilis comes through, just like we knew he would, and drives a ball to the left of the triangle for a bases-clearing triple. Boston's finally back in the driver's seat, avenging the dearth of runs last night and the humiliation of tonight's early setbacks by piling on sixteen runs in five straight innings. They pulled off one hell of a win tonight and left no doubt as to how these games should end.