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August 19, 2006: Long Ball

As often happens to me, I did not sleep well the night before a Yankees/Red Sox match-up. Because yes, it is EXACTLY like the night before Christmas and I am exactly like a sugared up ten-year-old on holiday when the Yankees come to town. But this time it was actually that I had to drive my dearest to the airport at the crack of dawn. Three and a half hours of sleep is not a lot. I thought perhaps I would take a nap in the late morning, but work interfered with that plan.

So it was that I kicked off the first day of the five-games-in-four-days Yankees at Fenway set utterly exhausted. Bad way to start a doubleheader. I suppose it was fitting though–I was about as worn out as both bullpens.

When the first game started at one in the afternoon, I was sitting at my desk trying to get some work done. Now, it’s no secret that I am co-writing a book with Anna Benson, the wife of Orioles’ pitcher Kris Benson (who won yesterday, by the way). There was a blurb about us in Sports Illustrated and the news has hit the PR entertainment newswires as well. So I may as well tell you that Anna and I are collaborating a lot by phone, since we’re in different cities.

Tired or no, I decided to multi-task, and watch the game on’s GAMEDAY (the animated pitch-by-pitch screen with the play by play ticker), and talk to Anna at the same time. Anna and I got a lot done. We were on the phone for almost two hours and NO, I’m not going to tell you any of the juicy anecdotes she shared with me (you’ll have to buy the book for that). Since what I’m writing is a novel, you’ll never know what is wild stuff I made up and what really happened, but honestly, there is so much wild stuff going on behind the scenes in baseball (as with any entertainment industry) that I won’t have to invent much.

The upshot of it is, by the time Anna and I got off the phone, the Yankees were up on the Red Sox 5-3 and I was feeling pretty good about that. Two runs is not very many to the Red Sox, and I knew the bullpen was a question mark, but hey… are you supposed to feel bad when your team is winning? No!

Especially when some of the guys you were worried about choking were on base all the time. Johnny Damon went 0-for-4 on his first game back to Fenway, way back in the beginning of the season. Not this time. He started the game off with a triple, which probably could have been an inside-the-park-homer if third base coach Larry Bowa had not been cautious.

Speaking of which, can I say now what a great job Bowa seems to do at third base? I know folks were apprehensive that the combative, fiery Bowa wouldn’t fit in with the Torre Yankees when he came on board, but he has been great both on the field and in the clubhouse. I haven’t seen him make a bad call at third yet (though Giambi ran right through his stop sign the other day–entirely Jason’s fault), and he seems to be the life of the party among the younger players like Cano and Wang. Yeah, isn’t that interesting? It’s the young guys on the team who flock to him and joke around with him.

But back to our story. Bowa’s caution paid off fie pitches later when Jeter’s base hit brought Damon in. Damon went 3-for-6 on the day, with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored. As the vernacular around here goes, you could say Damon was “awn fiyah.”

Another guy who was on fire: Bobby Abreu. Okay, I admit it, I was a little emotional the other day when I posted that I was skeptical about him. Actually, as I said in that article, I was mostly upset that beloved Bernie Williams was going to ride the bench as a result of Abreu’s arrival. Abreu is not only the new David Justice, he’s actually better. His on-base percentage since coming to the Yankees is close to .500, and how about 4-for-5 with a walk in his first big Fenway test? Hawt.

And then there is Alex Rodriguez, the lightning rod for negativity. All I can say is anyone who expects A-rod to simply crumble in the face of booing, rabid press, or his own psyche’s twists, is in for a disappointment. 2-for-5, 2 RBI, scored a run, a very decent showing in what turned into a Yankee rout.

The final score did not come until 3 hours and 55 minutes after the first pitch, by which time I had packed my car and was headed to Pawtucket, RI to play in the final game of my on baseball season. (If you’re new to Why I Like Baseball, I play in the oldest all-female baseball league in the country, the Pawtucket Slaterettes.) My team has been crummy this year, but I’ll post a season recap later this week. Right now, I’m too busy with the Yankees in town to do it.

I arrived at Slater Park at almost 5pm for a 5:30 game, but couldn’t get out of my car because T.J. Beam was trying to finish the Sox off, and was having trouble. He did give up a run, but eventually induced Mike Lowell to fly out. In the end it was 12-4 Yankees, who outhit the Sox 17-10, and it was a good thing they had rescheduled the nightcap to take place at 8pm, since the first one took sooooo long.

My own game was fun, as always, but between the fact that we played on back-to-back days thanks to a quirk in our schedule, and I played every inning of both games (a rarity, given our roster size, but a lot of folks are on vacation), by about the fourth inning my legs were starting to feel tired. Actually, all of me felt tired — remember, less than four hours sleep — but it was my legs that it seemed to affect the most. I played left field, the furthest position from our dugout, and the run back and forth to my position was starting to feel very long.

The team went out to dinner afterward to celebrate the end of the season, and just our luck, the place we went, a family restaurant called Chelo’s, had a tv on with the game. The Sox/Yankees game, I mean. We were actually in the next room, but I could see it through the windows separating that dining room from the one we were in.

Damon again led off with a hit. Awn fiyah. He was caught stealing by Doug Mirabelli, but I didn’t care. Damon’s hit felt like a sign that the massive offensive barrage of the early game was going to continue. The fact that Jon Lester was on the mound also encouraged that fact. I know the rule of thumb is that the Yankees can’t hit rookies they have never seen before. But I just felt like they were going to get the runs, and that they were going to need them because of one thing. Sidney Ponson.

The Sox got a run off Ponson in the bottom of the inning, but you knew a 1-0 score was not going to stand up. The Yankees then came up to bat, and they were still batting after we’d placed our order, and they were still batting around the time our drinks started to come–which was amazing because we had one of the slowest waiters I’ve ever seen. The poor guy was overwhelmed by our need for 10 separate checks, and needed every order as he was writing them down to be repeated three times–and even then he got some of them wrong and the drinks forgotten.

Who cares though, when you’re having a good time with friends, and oh by the way, the Yankees are now up 5-1? I thought maybe it was 3-1, but Todd, our coach, who was sitting a little closer and who has better eyesight than me, said 5-1.

I paid attention to food and friends after that, and got into my car to leave at the end of the third inning. The third inning? It was almost 9:30 pm at that point, and the Sox had scored four while I wasn’t paying attention. So now it was 5-4 Yanks, but in ninety minutes they had only gone through three innings?

The drive home was long. It’s always an hour, but it felt even longer as the Sox tied the score on a Craig Wilson error (he’s the guy we have at first base now, in case you didn’t follow and the trading deadline moves–Giambi DH’s mostly now). Then went ahead. Then scored three more in the fifth.

So we were down 10-7 when I got home and wanted to go to sleep. But was I going to be able to sleep while they were playing? Of course not. Never. I sat in my office instead, listening to the Red Sox broadcast on the radio while playing a computer game.

A scoreless inning occurred. That’s right. In the sixth inning, neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox scored. Something that had not happened in that game (and only happened three times in the earlier game, too).

Then in the seventh, the Yankees turned the tables once again, trumping all previous rallies of the entire day, scoring seven runs off Craig Hansen and Mike Timlin (who was given the blown save and the loss), making the score 14-10 Yankees. In the eighth both teams were again scoreless, which just seemed soooo weird. Scott Proctor had to pitch again. And Keith Foulke pitched two scoreless for the Sox, after having been activated between games (while the game one starter, Jason Johnson, was designated for assignment).

Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth. David Ortiz hit a home run off him, a solo shot into the bullpen in right, but it really did not seem to matter. The Yankees won 14-11, in a game that set the new record for a nine-inning game at 4:45. The poor folks running the Jimmy Fund radio-thon yesterday had to keep their phones open an extra hour because the game ran so long. (On the other hand, they broke the previous record for fundraising and ended up beating their goal of $2.6 million which is a Very Good Thing. Apparently, during the first game, Jason Giambi even got on his cell phone and pledged $1,000 between at bats.)

It was not the “Boston Massacre” of 1978, in which the Yankee offensive explosion was coupled with stifling pitching. But hey, I’ll take it. By winning the first two of the five, the Yankees insure that no matter what happens in the next three games, they will leave town still in first place.

Today Josh Beckett faces Randy Johnson–heat against heat. Tomorrow Mike Mussina faces Curt Schilling–ace against ace, brains against brains. And Monday Cory Lidle faces David Wells–question mark against question mark. So who knows how it will turn out? All I can say is after a full eight hours of sleep, I’m ready for it now.

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