Friday, October 17, 2008

Princes of the Universe

Presenting! Terry Francona's The Highlander! Watch, as one man from Georgia, supported by a cast with such dashing and daring characters as Youk, Pedey, Big Papi, Bay State (does anyone actually call him Bay State?), Coco, and Rat Boy, fights to keep his dreams of a 2008 World Series berth alive - or at least give the Rays a run for their money - in the face of Terrible Aggression, Rayhawks, female Rayhawks, and B. J. Upton!

  • J.D. Drew as Connor McLeod of the Clan McLeod, the Scottish warrior with the bat and excitement response of steel!
  • David Ortiz as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, the Spanish swordsman who looks Scottish but is actually, in fact, Dominican.
  • Evan Longoria as The Kurgan, the bad guy so bad ass he needs no introduction - nor pitch high in the zone.
Holy crap, what a way to end a game. I will admit without shame that while I headed into tonight with at least some hope of a good showing to brighten what had been an otherwise abysmal stretch of baseball, by the seventh inning I was reduced to praying for a run, making and burning small sacrifices of peanuts and crackerjack on my living room floor in the hopes that the baseball gods might let us live without the indignity of a skunking.

Then came the bottom of the seventh inning. Remember the feeling you had before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, where you basically declared "$#&% it" and decided to watch just to see how things turned out? That's how I felt when I wrested control of the TV at the start of the bottom of the seventh. Then things started happening. Pedroia comes up with two outs and a man in scoring position and does what almost no other Red Sox has done this series: he knocks him in. Papi comes up: we're all thinking "big spot, big spot, 2004, Mr. Clutch Hit," but we're all thinking about that wrist, too, about that sub-.200 batting average and the deadfish way his hits seem to have these days. And maybe we're thinking about that triple from last night, too, because somehow hard-cursing Grant "Lord" Balfour decides right now would be a perfect time to challenge Big Papi with a fastball in the heart of his ball-crushing zone. And like J. D. Drew last year, the totally improbable happened: easy as pie, Ortiz dropped that ball right into the grandstand and cut the Rays' lead in half.

Bottom of the eighth: we have our runs now. Now I'm starting to get greedy. I want that tie game, I want that win. I want to go back to Tampa and show these Rays why this decade belongs to the Boston Red Sox. I want J. D. Drew to hit a two-run homer. Surprisingly, so does Dan Wheeler, because he gives Drew a pitch about as fat as the one hit by Ortiz and suddenly, we're a run shy of the biggest comeback the Rays have allowed all year. Kotsay doubles on another fat offering and now it's up to Coco: two outs, momentum on the line. His battle with Wheeler is the stuff of legend and hitting instructional videos - ten pitches, fouling fastball after fastball after fastball until he finally got the perfect offering - but his result is what truly mattered: a smash down the right field line that was enough to score Kotsay and tie the game.

Francona, in a move that walks the line between genius and idiocy (and seems like genius because they won), had brought in Papelbon in the seventh and eighth, so he turned to Masterson for the ninth. Masterson, being the fine, upstanding citizen that he is, decides a collective heart attack is what's best for all and proceeds to put men on first and second before finally inducing a double play to escape. The heart of the order is up for the Sox now, but I'm pretty close to panic, with visions of Javier Lopez or - saints preserve us - Mike Timlin coming in to protect the lead in the ninth. All around the country, Red Sox fans jacked up on adrenaline are pleading for the same thing: no extra innings.

We almost got 'em. Watching Longoria make that grab on the third base line was like watching a ninja eviscerate a kitten: you admire the form, but you don't feel too good about the result. A long night looms...and then the throw sailed wide. Just like that. Youkilis goes to second and we're seeing the third example in as many innings of the type of breaks grabbing we've enjoyed so much in the past four years. Bay walks, Joe Maddon decides to play the odds of a lefty/lefty matchup with Drew despite the history and once again, a battle ensues. Howell can't throw anything but junk and Drew's seeing the ball so well he'll keep fouling off pitch after pitch until he finds the one he wants...until he hits the ball to right field. Until we win. Pandemonium. Dancing in the streets. Princes of the Universe. Go Sox.