The last time I attended a game at Fenway Park, Andrew Miller was pitching for the Red Sox and Clay Buchholz was considered an elite pitcher. Though my attention to the club hasn’t faltered, I haven’t watched a game in person in five years. In the last game I saw, the Sox shut out the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0. In the game those five years ago, Buchholz struck out 11 batters in eight shutout innings of two-hit baseball before Miller went in to finish the game. Now Buchholz is rehabilitating from an injury sustained last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, and Miller is perhaps the most feared reliever in the MLB.
My five-year stretch where I didn’t the Sox play at Fenway was broken Wednesday, April 11, 2018. My friend had an extra ticket and I promptly cancelled everything planned that day in order to attend. For my first ever Red Sox/Yankees matchup, I was expecting to see a pitching duel between Yankees Japanese-phenom Masahiro Tanaka and Red Sox Cy Young winning pitcher David Price. What I ended up seeing was a New York slugfest against a chaotic Red Sox bullpen.
Price started the game with zero runs allowed in his 15 innings pitched in the season. This scoreless streak was ruined by a two-run triple by Giancarlo Stanton and a two-run home run by Gary Sanchez. The Fenway faithful were peeved to say the least to see their 9-game winning streak up against a 4-0 deficit in the first inning of play.
While I combated the Yankees 4-0 lead with a $10.75 Jim Beam and coke mix and a $10.25 Magic Hat pint, the Red Sox had answers of their own — exponentially more productive answers. Boston DH Hanley Ramirez smoked a 432-foot home run off Tanaka to make the game 4-1.
My mood lowers with my drinks as the New York Yankees scored more runs. Yankee first baseman Tyler Austin singled Sanchez home in the third inning forcing the score to 5-1, I take a sip from my whiskey. Shortstop Didi Gregorius hits a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1, I take a pull from my Magic Hat. In the same fourth inning, Gary Sanchez hits another home run that drives in Aaron Judge for a 8-1 score. I finish my whiskey.
By the fifth inning I’m feeling lower than dirt. I’m shaking my head at every pitch and disagreeing with every call. Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts doubles in a run to make it 8-2. My spirits stay static. Mookie’s double sends Jackie Bradley Jr. to third base, I’m not phased. Hanley Ramirez walks, bases become loaded with two outs, I get inspired. To the plate comes J.D. Martinez. Down by six runs and $40 (I doubled down on my beverages after the second Sanchez homer) I close my eyes. Perhaps it was to stop the stands from spinning but with eyes shut I prayed for the first time since Katrina. I just closed my eyes and muttered to myself, “Rope one, rope one for me.” Following the crack of the J.D.’s bat on the first pitch by Tanaka, I open my eyes to find the ball launched into deep center, destined for Boston student section. There then a prayer was answered and the boy in me became a believer. The Sox were now just down 8-6.
Lousy relief by Sox righty Matt Barnes let the game get to 10-6 in the subsequent inning. The final score wouldn’t deviate far from this, but the action sure would. A minor moment of the third inning involved Yankee player Tyler Austin sliding into Brock Holt, effectively disrupting an attempt at a double play. Austin and Holt exchanged words with each other before both benches and bullpens cleared and took for the field. Flamethrowing reliever Joe Kelly took the hill for the Red Sox in the 7th inning. When making his way to the mound my friend mused whether we’d see Nolan Ryan or Rick Vaughn. Kelly made quick work of the first batter before plunking Austin in the back with a 98 mile-per-hour fastball. Kelly’s retaliation for Austin’s aggressive slide in the third inspired Austin to slam his bat onto the ground and charge the mound. Kelly waved Austin to meet him at the rubber, shimmy shaked in a dance of anticipation, dodging a punch by Austin before connecting Austin’s face with a few of his own. Both benches and bullpens cleared for a second time to intervene. Of all the blows thrown and jerseys gripped, the notable hero was New York Yankee Aaron Judge. Judge quickly got to Kelly and protected him from his more infuriated teammates. You’re alright in my book, Aaron Judge. I’ll allow it.
While the violence that occurred after Kelly attacked Austin with a 98 mile-per-hour heater was intense, that was it for the drama in the game. The Red Sox bullpen stuck together and didn’t let the Yankees score again. Aroldis Chapman finished the game for the Yankees and while he struck out two batters, he allowed one to score on a wild pitch. Following the game I fell asleep in my friend’s car and woke up in Bangor at 3 a.m. After returning I slept well into the next day, missing most commitments of Thursday as well as Wednesday. Anything can be done (or not done) for the love of the game.