Oct. 19 6:00 PM EST
Three-quarters of my Red Sox cronies had tickets to an ALCS game at Fenway.
We were drooling on Monday morning, Oct. 13.
The Sox had split two in Tampa. Negating the Ray’s home field advantage was a tremendous plus. Now, our little Connecticut group would be there for the first two Fenway games.
Cassidy and I would bring the mojo on Monday and we’d go ahead 2 to 1 in games.
Nick and Mike would be there to curse the Rays on Tuesday, giving the Sox a commanding 3 to 1 lead.
Cassidy and I rolled into Boston before noon on the 13th.
The service at Legal Seafood was an A+. The coincidental placement of 5 Rays fans at the table next to us was wonderful. These Tampa-ites (Tampaneans ?) were primarily male and of middle age. One of them was loud, slightly boastful, but non-controversial. He probably hadn’t been a Rays fan for more than two weeks and hadn’t learned any zingers.
At 2 p.m., we conversed with the media photogs near the visitors on-deck circle. These photogs are knowledgeable sports fans. They knew Hinske was off the roster but was traveling with the Rays. They knew that the Rays were a distant fourth at home to SEC Football, the NFL and the NBA. They knew that their last minute addition to the press entourage meant their newspapers were trying to save a buck.
And there 20 feet from us was Joe Maddon, peering from behind the portable batting cage during BP. He looked relaxed and confident, hands tucked into the pockets of his hoodie. Joe exuded nonchalance in the festive post season atmosphere.
But what was Maddon thinking ? And what did he know ?
Like us, did he think that anything could happen ?
You’ve got to admire this guy. He’s clever, bright, and not pre-packaged. Manager of the Year.
AT 4 p.m., we settled into our seats in bleacher 42, on the aisle.
In the top of the first, Lester fired two 94 mph fastballs to Iwamura, inducing a ground out to Cora at short. Upton grounded unassisted to Kotsay at 1st on another fastball.
Pena then flew out to Ellsbury in center on another heater.
Oh, boy, I thought. Three outs on 4 pitches. Lester is in no-hitter form today. I wiped the drool off my UConn jacket.
I continued to salivate in the bottom of the first when Pedroia hit a wall ball double off Garza on a 1-2 fastball.
The drooling soon stopped. We didn’t score. Then, in the top of the 3rd, Upton and Longoria jacked homeruns into a 17 mph wind and the Monster.
Those bashes came shortly after “Tek stranded two runners in scoring position the prior inning.
The ‘Tek strikeout was hard to watch.
Garza turned his heater up to 97 mph just for the old catcher.
Our recurrent lack of clutch hitting was followed by fearless, confident swinging by the Rays’.
The Rays scored 4 times in the third after scratching out one earlier run in the second. End of 3, we were down 5 – zip.
Garza would allow runners every inning he pitched but would allow no runs. That’s the price we paid for not getting to him early when we had the chance.
Lester would pitch until there were two gone in the sixth and yield no more runs.
The Fenway crowd was as quiet as a church mouse by the end of the 4th inning. And cold. BY the 6th, it was C-O-L-D.
I have been here for some bitter losses including season-enders, but I have NEVER EVER heard the Fenway crowd silently contained before.
Byrd came in later and gave up 4 more runs and the outcome was 9-1.
The next night, Nick and Mike watched Wakefield, one of the best pitchers in Sox history, throw grapefruits as if in batting practice. A 13-4 laugher gave the Rays the commanding 3 -1 lead in games.
Surely, the youngsters from Tampa were staging a coup.
The life was sucked right out of the crowd.
What This Series Has Now Come to Be
We think we know the Rays. But, they are still becoming what they are — right before our eyes.
These two teams are so evenly matched there is no way to see a clear favorite.
And now the Sox have erased the Rays’ 3-1 advantage at home when they triumphed in games 5 and 6.
Pummeled in games 3 & 4. Victors in games 5 & 6.
Anything can happen. When we went down in those first two games at Fenway, we all but lost the ALCS. When we came within 7 outs of losing the Series before rallying on Thursday, we had pushed all of our chips in. And had lost.
The Rays lacked the killer instinct.
The Sox are steady poker players.
We are playing with house money now.
And anything can happen.