Saturday, September 18, 2004: I think they gave me an ulcer last night. In the last two years the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry might be the only seemingly over-hyped sporting matchup that nonetheless actually manages to surpass the buildup. And it does so every time, no matter who wins, no matter who you root for.

Last night’s game was no exception. In a game punctuated by two rain delays, one of more than an hour, the Red Sox triumphed in a ninth inning comeback against Mariano Rivera, also known in Red Sox Nation as “Fruitbat.” (Do a Google image search of both names and see if it is not one of the greatest cruel nicknames of all time). It was a 3-2 game characterized by fireworks appropriate for a game with three times as many runs.
Bronson Arroyo weathered both rain delays and dodged a few bullets, one in which Manny made a spectacular, Espy-Award-type catch to rob Miguel Cairo of a home run. Cairo was so certain that it was gone that he finished his trot by crossing home plate and trying to get some love when he looked around in disbelief after finding out what Manny had done. Oh, and if one wants to measure the superiority of Sox fans v. Cubs fans in terms of baseball smarts, note that the Sox fans lining the left field wall did not interfere and indeed pulled away from many to allow him to make a catch that will be burned on my brain forever, to be pulled out and savored in offseasons to come. Note also that when the Sox made big plays or got big hits and audible roar came from the crowd. Embedded Sox fans in the Toilet Bowl. You won’t hear Yankees fans in Fenway next weekend, I’ll assure you of that. The Yankees suck. In any case, Tito too dodged some bullets when he left Arroyo in for one inning too long, though Bronson, who is growing up before our very eyes, was able to pitch a 1-2-3 6th. He had given up a solo home run to Olerud to lead of the fifth, which for most of the rest of the game looked as if it was going to hold up as the winning run.
The Sox got to El Duque early, with Manny Ramirez absolutely tagging him for what appeared to be a home run, only to have it overruled by the umpires, who had a wretched game overall even if they got that call right. Especially horrible was home plate unpire Tim Wendelstadt, who was calling pitches six inches off the plate for strikes. Part of his thinking was that he wanted to get a game threatened by rain past the fifth, but his horrible plate umpiring continued even after the game would have gone into the books. In any case, the Sox squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the first, but Johnny Damon hit an upper deck blast on a not-so-fast Hernandez fastball in the third that held up as the lead for two innings but a couple of hours due to the delays.
In the ninth the Sox were magical, even if that is when my ulcers probably fully appeared. Facing the bottom of our lineup (Nixon, Varitek – who had a horrible night in his first trip to the Bronx after l’affaire Arod – Millar, and Cabrera) Fruitbat was uncharacteristically wild. He walked Nixon, for whom Tito wisely pinch ran Dave Roberts, who kept Rivera off balance, especially after Roberts stole second when Varitek struck out. He then drilled Millar with a pitch, causing Wendelstadt to warn both benches. Arroyo had hit a batter earlier, also clearly unintentionally, but this was absurdly premature – no one in either dugout believed it could possibly have been an intentional hbp, and these guys have to be able to play, which includes pitching inside. In any case, Cabrera dropped a single into right field that allowed the speedy Roberts to tie the game up. One batter later Damon continued his heroics by singling in Gabe Kaplar, Tito’s choice to pinch run for Millar. This goes to show just how solid the Sox depth is, which could be huge as the postseason approaches and progresses.
Keith Foulke did his job, shutting the yanks down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the win and earn the save. Today’s game is just about to start, so I need to go home and bunker down. Dlowe against Lieber. I suspect a lot of firepower today. I also expect either a win or another few holes in my stomach lining. Nonetheless, it is a glorious form of stress. I cannot wait to see what these two teams come up with today.

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