Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tim Wakefield's Revenge - 2009 ALCS Review

I remember that night back in 2003.  Sitting in the beer stained pub down the street.  Grady Little letting a 160 pound Dominican wrap him around his finger like a little girl.  The hits from Jeter and Matsui.  The tense 9th and 10th innings.  Then, the inevitable home run by Aaron Boone against Tim Wakefield.  Wakefield had pitched beautifully in this series, winning Game One and Game 4.  And these memories are still burned into my brain like fluttering demons.  In 2004, I tried to talk my friends into going into same bar we were in the previous year to exercise those remaining demons.  Same with 2007.  We never made it there that night or any night for that matter, and perhaps that's why this is still an important series to me, even if the rest of the country couldn't care less.  I want to exercise those demons still.  And so does Tim Wakefield.  It didn't happen in 2007 because Joba had those darn bug problems.  2008 was a washout because the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS.  Wait, what, they didn't even make the playoffs that year?  Oh that's right, I was trying to remember the last time the Yankees won the World Series and I lost track. 

Fast forward to 2009.  The Red Sox won the first 8 games and the Yankes won 9 of the last 10.  Yankees fans will say that the 8-0 mark was a result of new guys trying to "chemie" one another.  (And A-Roid's secret one month drug ban).  Red Sox fans will say that the last three games didn't matter and besides the Yankees cheat. 

In their respective ALDS, the Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins. The Red Sox just handed the Angels their third consecutive defeat. The series that always seems to get more hype than it should is taking shape before our eyes. Yankees vs Red Sox IV.  What's going to happen?

October 16, 2009.  New York, NY.  Jon Lester, with his 2.84 ERA in Yankee Stadium in 2009 (No, I don't count the game where Melky Cabrera intentionally hit Lester in the knee with a baseball) dominates the Yankees' line up for 7 innings, giving up 1 run with 9 strikeouts.  CC Sabathia, on the other hand, remembering that the team is really counting on him now, takes a break from the cheeseburger and fries to throw up respectable numbers (for him and his 7.92 post season ERA) - 5 innings, 6 earned runs.   This game is over before it starts.  RED SOX 6 YANKEES 1.

October 17, 2009.  New York, NY.  Jose Molina and Jorge Posada start scratching each other's faces trying to catch AJ Burnett.  Ladies, please.   Meanwhile, Josh Beckett dominates in the playoffs, period.  Alright except for last year, got it.  AJ Burnett gives up 20 runs in 20 innings against the Red Sox.  J.D. Drew and David Ortiz hit home runs into the night.  AJ Burnett gets so melancholy he wants to punch Derek Jeter's permasmirk off of his face.  RED SOX 8 YANKEES 2.

October 19, 2009.  Boston, MA.  Clay Buchholz, the manchild, is in way over his head.  After a third shaky start in a row against the Angels in the ALDS, Bucholz proceeds to give up four home runs.  One to Damon around the Pesky Pole, one to A-Fraud into the Monster seats, one to Robinson Cano into the bullpen and one to Tex Mex (he gives me heartburn everytime I see his ugly mug, the jerk) to straight away center field.  Meanwhile Andy Pettitte continues his recent mastery over the Red Sox and throws a gem.  Get tickets to this game if you want to try to get a souvenir home run ball.  YANKEES 9  RED SOX 4.

October 20, 2009.  Boston, MA.  This is even worse.  Even though CC Sabathia's Fenway Park split is mediocre (4.61 ERA).  He can certainly out pitch Daisuke Matsuzaka.  When the year started, I had Dice learning the system and pitching 215 innings and winning 18-20 games.  Instead, we got this.  YANKEES 8 RED SOX 3.

October 22, 2009. Boston, MA  Jon Lester hits Melky Cabrera in the third inning and everyone outside of New York cheers.  I wish it were Johnny Damon, Jeter, Posada, A-Rod, etc., but I'm still pleased.  He then masters the Yankees again to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.  Dustin Pedroia finally comes through with 3 hits and 2 RBIs.  RED SOX 4  YANKEES 2.

October 24, 2009.  New York, NY.  This is the best game of the series so far.  Jeter leads off with a double and gets driven in by a Tex-Lax single.  These are the only Yankees base runners until the 6th inning.  Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte, who never has great post season statistics or games specifically against the Red Sox, pours it on.  1-0 into the top of the ninth.  Mariano Rivera comes in.  I throw Bill Mueller and Dave Roberts hand made dolls at him.  I start singing "Tessie," anything to get this guy off his game.  AND IT WORKS!  Mike Lowell hits a single.  Joey Gathright pinch runs for him and of course steals second.  This kid has just gotten himself a job for life in Boston (See the aforementioned Dave Roberts).  JD Drew, 3 for 24 in the series, with 7 called strikeouts, hits a grounder between stone hips (Jeter) and no hips (A-Roid).  TIE SCORE!  Not a fairy tale ending in this one, though, as in the bottom of the ninth, Billy Wagner gives up the walk off to Texeira.  I hope we get a couple of good players from the draft for this stiff.  YANKEES 2 RED SOX 1.

October 25, 2009.  New York, NY.  Clay Buchholz vs. CC Sabathia.  This is what playoff baseball is all about; and for the 3rd time in seven years, the Red Sox and the Yankees are going to play Game 7.  I'm watching the game hunkered down with a couple of friends.  I don't remember 2004 or 2007 at this point.  I remember Bucky Dent and Ray Knight and Aaron Boone (Beep, beep, beep).  I thought I forgave Bill Buckner when he came out at the ring ceremony a couple years ago (although we all forgave him when he came back to play at the end of his career, no?), but I had the same look of disbelief that Buckner had when Johnny Damon hit the grand slam against Buchholz.  Really, is this bizarro Johnny?  A grand slam at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of an ALCS?  I could hit a home run in that band box, but that's not the point.  This is not the Red Sox of old.  They haven't been for 5 years.  Although the Yankees lead by 6 in the third inning, five straight hits from Youk, Papi, J-Bay, Mikey and JD Drew (I don't know a good nickname for him except for "Called Strike Three" or "CST" for short) cut the lead in half.  And then an opposite field home run by Youk in the fourth ties the game.  Francona needs to get Buchholz out of there as he gives up a couple of more runs and begins to openly cry. 

I had forgotten that Wakefield was put on the roster because his back had finally responded to treatment (I think he had both hips replaced, but that's just me), so I was surprised to see him come out of the bull pen to start the 5th inning.  One, two, three inning in the 5th.  Maybe this could be it!  The innings get later and later.  The Red Sox tie the score at 8 in the 7th inning and take the lead in the 8th when the most maligned player of the year, David Ortiz, hits a towering home run near the Utz sign.  We are in euphoria!  We all hug each other in manly ways.  Papelbon comes in the 9th to finish the game and the RED SOX ADVANCE!  Wakefield comes waddling out slaps a couple of guys on the back because he's too old and fragile to dive on the pile.   RED SOX 9  YANKEES 8.

Wakefield was able to exercise some demons this night.  Game 7, Yankee Stadium. I cringed when Pedro came out in Game 7 against the Yankees in 2004, because that seemed forced.  The Red Sox needed Wakefield to save a spent bullpen and he came through this time.  Was this the reason why he wouldn't retire event though he had plenty of money and two rings?  It was inevitable that these two teams would face each other again, while he was still able to pitch.  Maybe.

By the way, these hugs and cheers when the game is over take place at the same tavern that I was in on that fateful night 6 years earlier.  I had come here in the 6th inning when Wakefield came out.  A lot of the same people were here, too.  And it was comforting to see their faces.  Maybe now I can talk rationally with my children about the Red Sox, now that I've been able to settle this remaining debt.  We'll see when the Sox play Manny and the Dodgers in the World Series.  

No comments:

Post a Comment