Friday, October 19, 2007

2007 ALCS Game 5: Ace of Spades

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, Cleveland Indians 1

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man/You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me

Like many other Red Sox fans, tonight, for this game, I chose not to venture out into the communal world of bars, where interaction with other members of Red Sox Nation could quickly turn uncomfortable if tonight's game went ugly. In Beckett we all trust, but that didn't stop those with a fatalistic outlook - or a strong dislike of the grief of others - from bunkering up with the home TV and a beer or two. Like wounded animals, we retreated to our caves where we could die with dignity if necessary.

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil/Going with the flow, it's all a game to me

Fortunately, any such preparation was completely and totally unnecessary; if there was a meter that measured awesome on a 10 point scale, they'd have to replace it: Beckett kept hitting 11 all freakin' night. I gushed about his pitching after Game 1 of the ALDS, I sang his praises after Game 1 of the ALCS, but tonight...tonight was something special.

It wasn't just the mere-mortal first inning that burned off like fog from Boston Harbor in the fiery sunlight of Beckett's other eight, or the career-high-tying 11 strikeouts, or the economies of pitching that kept his fastball still sparking after a full night of 96 mph heat - these things we've come to expect from Beckett the 20 game winner, or Beckett the post-season maniac. Here, tonight, Red Sox fans got to experience in full emotional depth how Marlins fans felt in 2003 when Beckett pitched his first post-season shutout in the exact same situation, picking up his team on their way to eventual world championship glory. Josh Beckett was a big game pitcher before tonight, but this win was his biggest big game test in a Red Sox uniform - and he passed with flying colors.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby
I don't wanna live for ever/And don't forget the joker!

It didn't hurt that for most of the game, it felt like Beckett was doing everything himself. Youkilis took Sabathia yard on the fourth pitch of the game, and Manny knocked in Big Papi in the third on what might be the longest single ever hit in Jacobs Field, but getting to that eventual 7 to 1 total took so many stranded bodies, Boston might have being trying to re-stage Custer's last stand. These feints toward a breakout weren't the usual cat and mouse game of the Red Sox offense, either; the gaspings and heavings of a fat man mid-heart attack on a treadmill might be a more appropriate metaphor. A typical inning would consist of one or two members of the lineup between Youkilis and Lowell getting on base, followed by the intense pain of delayed gratification and frayed nerves as the Sox failed to score a run (strike outs, double plays, even getting thrown out at home all played their part), leaving the door open for what seemed like the eventual apocalypse when the Indians finally started scoring runs.

I see it in your eyes, take one look and die/The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be

However, even gaspings and heavings must eventually turn into something positive, and in the end the Sox broke through, scored an insurance run or five, and set what we all hope to be the precedent for additional offensive explosions on Saturday (and Sunday, fingers crossed) post-triumphal return to Fenway. Tonight's game might not have been fun in the pedestrian sense, but if we're lucky it shifted the momentum back to Boston's side of the court.

The Ace Of Spades/The Ace Of Spades