Wednesday, April 06, 2005

GameDay: Boston 7, Axis of Evil 3

Man, the Yankees would really be something if they just had a closer. (Snicker.)

Any way of beating the Yankees is a good way, but today's was pretty much the ideal. The shiny, happy synopsis: The Sox jump ahead early, 2-0. The Yankees tie it up on solo homers by A-Fraud and Tino Martinez.

(Ah, Tino: The prodigal first baseman's return to the Yankees has been greeted with such over-the-top cheering that it suggests a desperate longing for the days when he had bat speed, the Yankees reigned supreme, and the "1918" chant wasn't obsolete. Kinda pathetic, actually. But I digress . . . )

So then, the Yankees take a one-run lead into the ninth. Mo Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, takes his elegant gait (Tim McCarver's fawning words, not mine) to the hill. The Mattingly-loving, mustache-growing, basement-dwelling jackals in the cheap seats are sure victory is imminent and begin showing off their lone motor skill, clapping.

Unfortunately, they forgot Yogi's most famous words. "It ain't ovah . . ."

Rivera, who is suddenly as averse to the Red Sox as his fans are to soap - he's blown his last four save opportunities against Boston - goes walk, single, single, strikeout.

Luckily for him, with the bases loaded, Manny Ramirez hits a tailor-made game-ending double-play grounder to third. Luckily for the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez . . .

. . . is manning third base for the Yankees, and - bad news for the bad guys - he's aware that the game is on the line. A-Fraud's hands immediately clench his throat, making it rather difficult to field the grounder cleanly. All runners are safe, and the tying run scores.

The next batter, Yankee tormentor David Ortiz, crushes one at least 50 feet, plating the go-ahead run. By then Rivera - who was so cool and emotionless not so long ago - looks, in the words of Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione, "sad . . . like there's something bothering him, something wrong."

Something is definitely wrong when he gives up a two-run single to embattled-after-two-freakin'-games shortstop Edgar Renteria. Rivera is removed from the game after 38 pitches, a 3-2 lead now a 6-3 deficit. The jackals, their mustaches twitching furiously, do the unthinkable and boo the man most responsible for their four recent World Series titles.

They add another run for humilation's sake, Foulke cruises in the ninth, and the Sox win, 7-3.

Yep, it was a great day to be a Red Sox fan. Did I mention Jeter took one off the coconut . . .

. . . the Captain is okay, fortunately, but it's good to know that ducking is not one of his many Intangibles. Someone tell Schilling.

On a serious note, Sox manager Terry Francona had to be taken to the hospital before the game after feeling tightness in his chest. Francona, who in the past had experienced chest pains as a side effect of blood clots that developed from a knee operation, is undergoing tests at a Boston hospital and is expected to miss at least one more game.

This is scary, scary stuff, and if anything bad happened to Francona (I hate to even mention such a thing), I think I might start to believe that curse nonsense. The man is my all-time favorite Sox skipper for obvious reasons (duh) and not so obvious ones (his sly sense of humor, his willingness to think creatively i.e. Doug Mientkiewicz, second baseman and especially, his out-of-focus 1982 Fleer baseball card).

And while I'm certain that at least one peabrained WEEI caller will demant that Francona be fired pronto and replaced with Brad Mills (the undefeated interim manager), 99.9999999 percent of the nation will forever admire him for what he did last October.

Get well soon, Tito. The Nation keeps you in our prayers.

Finally, per request from reader/relative JF, today's Completely Random Baseball Card (or whatever I've been calling it) . . .

Wonder if he's pissed Pedro stole his hairstyle.