Saturday, September 15, 2007

Game 149: Screaming for Vengeance

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 10, New York Yankees 1

After last night, everyone from Josh Beckett to Billy the Bat Boy to the drunken old codger sucking down whiskeys in the dark, dusty corner of the bar knew that the only way to avenge the ignominious enormity of defeat was a complete and total victory today. Nothing less would satisfy the need for vengeance that burned inside every fan and - we hoped - inside every bat and arm on the bench and in the bullpen marked "home team" in Fenway; even a close win would mark an untoward weakness of fighting spirit while underscoring the all-too-true axiom: you can never have too much money or score enough runs on the Yankees.

Incredibly, lighting the spark that exploded Boston's offensive powder keg took some doing, while the Yankees struck first - Derek Jeter's solo shot to the center field bleachers crowning a first inning where Beckett looked totteringly unsure and need thirty pitches and six batters to get three ground outs. A combination of Pedroia, Ortiz and Lowell scored Boston's first run in the bottom of the inning, but from there the score remained tied for five innings, a tense balance of occasional squandered opportunities, slowly rising pitch counts and the excellent, excellent pitching this match-up promised.

The spark that finally launched the explosion came from one of those odd, unexpected happenstances that fulfill the promise of any competition (the spirit of the statement, 'that's why they play the game') with their unpredictability: Wang, now throwing his sinker higher and higher in the zone, hit Youkilis on the wrist. Out goes Youkilis with a contusion, in comes Jacoby Ellsbury, the fresh-faced kid with the powerful stroke and the fleet legs, to pinch-run. A Big Papi single to the right side puts Ellsbury on third; J.D. Drew's clutch hit (seven games in a row, baby!) two batters later jogged the runner home for the second Boston run.

Over the next two innings, as the Sox disposed of Wang and tore into the Yankees bullpen like a pack of starving wolves into a weakened deer, Ellsbury took center stage, going two for two and knocking in three runs, raising his average back to .396. Perhaps the best moment of all: one batter after Eric Hinske dropped a shoulder into Jorge Posada trying score from third, Ellsbury tried the same trick, but used his slide to push the confused Yankees catcher off the plate and take his second run. Posada, dazed, forgetting to apply the tag to get the out; Ellsbury, triumphant with victory: this moment was the microcosm for how much things could change in a day, and it felt really, really good.