Thursday, July 8, 2004: OK, which Sox team is going to show up in the last two innings? At one point we were up 7-1 in this game. In the last four innings we have given them seven runs. Schill had an ok performance, but he was reaching a pretty high pitch count (The A’s were playing Moneyball) and was gone after five and a third in which he gave up three earned runs. The bullpen then came out and imploded. Timlin gave up three. Foulke gave up one, though he also let in some of Timlin’s runners, and the A’s tied it in the top of the 8th.
We just got up, Damon got an infield hit, but Mueller flied out on a hit and run and Damon was doubled off easily. Ortiz, who has had a hell of a game (3 for 5 with an rbi on a blast) popped out high but harmlessly. And the A’s are up in the top of the ninth. Manny has also had a good game – he is leading off the ninth, and it would be nice for him to add to a night in which he has already gone 2 for 3 with a home run and three rbi.
On a positive note, after last night’s game, someone went into the clubhouse to tell Manny he had been chosen to be in the Home Run Derby to be held at the All Star festivities on Monday. Manny immediately asked about Ortiz, and upon being told that his friend was not invited, Manny gave up his spot for Ortiz. Apparently the powers that be acceded to Manny’s request, and Ortizzle, who also made his first all star team (it would have been a travesty had he not) will get some spotlight at the Home Run Derby, which has become one of the most popular events of any sports all star game. The fact is, Ortiz might be more naturally suited for this sort of contest than Manny. Maybe he can come out of nowhere and do what Garrett Anderson did last year. This also points out something that I have suspected for a while – the team takes most of its cues from the Latin Troika influence of Pedro and especially Manny and the affable and popular Ortiz. It is worth noting that we have seen no appearances of surly, brooding Manny this year and instead have seen a boyish, joyful, happy, ebullient Manny. And is it s coincidence that he is having a monster year. (Granted, Manny almost always has monster years. He really is a freak of nature at the plate. And he is becoming a serviceable left fielder, much as Jim Rice did.)
In any case, Manny is at the bat. I’d love to see them end this now, escape with a win that was more difficult than it ought to have been, and get ready for Texas. My buddy Rob and I just exchanged an email as the tide began to turn in this game, and he observed that a loss tonight, especially in this way, would pretty much erase the good vibes of the last two nights, making appearances like those seem like the anachronisms. I agree. It seems to me that a win is a win. If we pull this one out, it won’t matter that we almost pissed it away, and in fact it might even be one of those that goes down as a test of team character that they can say proudly that they passed. But there are different kinds of losses. This one would be a bad one.
Ugh – Manny got a reprieve when Hatteberg muffed a foul ball. Then he took it deep into the count, and ultimately he struck out, looking pretty bad in the process. Nomar is up, and he just ripped a line drive, but it was foul (naturally it was on the first pitch). A slider away for a called strike makes it an 0-2 count. Ugh – another strikeout. Now Trot Nixon is up. Trot hits a somewhat controversial triple! Apparently a case could be made that a fan touched it, but the umps either did not see it or chose not to call it. Now it could all rest on the bat of David McCarty, who has had a couple of late-inning hits to impact games. But he grounds to Hatteberg, who takes it on a tough hop and wins a footrace to first. It’s going into the tenth. Forgive me for feeling a bit tense – of late extra innings have not exactly been beneficent to the Sox. They are 3-5 this year in extra frames, and some of those losses have been wretched, gut wrenching, painful, nightmare inducing, therapy requiring affairs.
Lefty Curtis Leskanic is pitching. A quick 1-2-3 inning is in order. We acquired
him from Kansas City recently. He was 0-3 with them, is 0-1 with us so far. But he’s induced a couple of outs, including one on a K. Still, I cannot say that my ideal conception of an extra inning game against one of our key rivals has the ball in Curtis Leskanic’s hand, but that’s what we got, and he just got Eric Byrnes to fly out to Pokey (Pokey!) for the third out.
Now the bottom of the order has to get it done. The good thing is that they have their rookie, Justin Lehr, out to face us, and we pummeled him last week. I hope this is not too evil, but let’s destroy this poor young guy’s psyche. Let’s go ‘Tek! OK, ‘Tek struck out. Let’s go Pokey! Wait, Pokey, who’s been ineffective of late (0 for 4 tonight, 1 for his last 20) gives way to pinch hitter and on base machine Mark Bellhorn. Let’s go Horny! OK, ground out to first. Eeeeesh. Let’s go Damon! Single to left. Winning run on base, with Bill Mueller, your 2003 American league Batting Champion, at the plate. Let’s Go Mueller! (Annoyed yet?) YES! YES! YES! Mueller delivers! Damon was taking home on Svuem’s urging, and he scores on a Mueller double to left center! It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. But it was a win. And it is a sweep! As I said, it doesn’t matter how you win. Just that you do.

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