Friday, September 18, 2009

ON SPORTS ~ Not So Fast...


Not So Fast:

where previously Molly tried to hold it all together on the verge of a Yankees sweep...

I don't think I've ever met a Dave I didn't like. There's Dave Letterman - he's been cracking me up since high school. There's Dave Thomas - founder of Wendy's, my favorite fast food chain. There's my Brother-In-Law, Dave - I love him even though he's a Yankees fan. But Dave Roberts? He's my hero. Let me tell you why.

In October of 2004, the Sox were matched up against the rival Yankees in the ALCS with the winner advancing to the World Series. In an attempt to make amends for losing in extra innings in the final game of the best of seven series the prior year to the very same foe, the Sox had reloaded and improved their team with big names and shake-ups, trading away the face of their franchise. Lost during all that hubbub was a side deal mid-season to pick up Dave Roberts who was a decent outfielder with a lot of base running speed who was asked to swallow his pride and turn in his starter days for being a bench player, which he did. So it must have been frustrating for him to watch his new team on the verge of being swept right out of the playoffs. You think Dave was frustrated? Humph! Talk to the fans. At least he had an opportunity to do something about it if he could ever get in the game. All we could do was sweat it out.

After getting their hats handed to them in Game 3, losing 19-8, the Sox were down to their last chance. If they didn't win Game 4, the series was over and off the Yankees would go to the World Series again. But they were a loose bunch of guys, joking around before the game with Sox First Basemen Kevin Millar telling the media "Don't let us win one, whatever you do." Ooooo - I'm sure that had the Yanks shaking in their cleats. Whatever Kevin. Most of New England just wanted them to hurry up and get the damn game over with already - such was the conditioning for loss in the region.

Amidst all of this was an interesting development with the Sox pitching. Starter Derek Lowe had fallen out of favor near the end of the season due to poor performance and had been relegated to the bullpen as a Reliever, which didn't make him all that happy. But then prized pick-up Curt Schilling's ankle blew up and he couldn't go. So beloved knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was to take his place. But because of the lengthy loss the night before Timmy Wakes had volunteered to take one for the team to preserve the rest of the pitching staff for this game. So that meant the Sox had to give the ball back to Lowe to make a start. D-Lowe was so pissed off at management for giving up on him, and at himself for even giving them a reason to, that he became a man on a mission.

D-Lowe was doing well until he gave up a homer to A-Rod, the one who Boston felt ditched them for NY before the start of the season. But he hung in there and kept the Yankees at bay long enough for the Sox to scrabble some runs together to take the lead. It was short lived as Lowe and his fellow relievers combined to give that lead right back to the Yanks. Things were getting frickin' stressful. The Sox were clinging to a one run deficit just trying to keep it that way long enough to take a lead again. They were so desperate that they put their Closer, Keith Foulke, in the game in the 7th asking him to pitch three innings when normally one is the max. But this wasn't a normal game - this was the season. And so Foulkie sucked it up and kept the Yankees from scoring all the way through the top of the 9th.

This game was taking forever. It was almost midnight on a Sunday and I had to work in the morning - like everyone else. And like everyone else, there wasn't a chance I was turning off that TV and going to bed. It was the bottom of the 9th, down by a run, with three outs left to try to get things done - or go home for good.

Not to be outdone, the Yankees had brought in their vaunted Closer, Mariano Rivera, in the 8th asking him to go long as well. The Sox and I weren't as fearful of Mo anymore however. Not after coming from behind to beat him in dramatic fashion earlier that season. And wouldn't you know, that blabber mouth, Kevin Millar, led off the 9th with a walk. So here came speedy Dave off the bench to pinch run for Millar. Finally, he could do something to help his team out. What he needed to do was steal 2nd. That would put him in scoring position to come home with ease to tie the game on a single. Dave knew he was going to go for the steal. Rivera knew he wanted to steal. The entire viewing audience knew he was going to try to steal. He kept leading farther and farther off of 1st and Rivera kept trying to pick him off. When Rivera finally conceded that he would eventually have to actually throw a pitch to the batter we sat on the edge of our seats, afraid to look through our fingers covering our sleepy eyes, as Dave took off.

Dave swiped that bag by the narrowest of margins. Now we had something to feel hopeful about. Because, did I mention? The batter standing at home plate waiting for Rivera to pitch to him and watching Dave do his thing was none other than Bill Mueller - the same Bill Mueller who had the game winning hit on that magical victory over Rivera back in July. And so, with that knowledge and confidence in the back of his mind, the crowd invigorated by Dave's daring steal, and perhaps a tiring Mo on the mound, Billy smacked that pitch right up the middle scoring Dave to tie the game, giving Rivera another rare blown save.

Going from the tense anxiety of waiting for Dave's steal to the hope and subsequent euphoria of that tying run was an incredible roller coaster. It got the adrenaline pumping which was a good thing because this game went into extra innings late in the evening. The clock passed 1:00 AM and we began to wonder when the hell the Sox were going to end this thing. Because you just knew they were meant to. It didn't cross my mind that they wouldn't after Dave's steal. Something had changed. Momentum certainly. But something else. Who knows. I was probably just overtired and imagining things. But all I know is that in the bottom of the 12th with Manny on 1st Base with a single, Big Papi came up to bat and smashed that little ball into the bullpen for a walk off 2 run homer to finally win the game at 1:30 in the morning - reminiscient of his performance in the ALDS.

Suddenly Kevin Millar's words before the game, about telling the Yankees they'd better not let them win one, started to make sense. And I think they got into the Yanks' heads. Because when Dave stole that base, the Sox found a reason to live, and anyone knows a second chance is a dangerous thing for those in the way.

next week, REDEMPTION, in which the roles are reversed...


Matty said...

The smallest of things sometimes makes the biggest difference.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Sista, I have yet again awarded you with some love and some Dropkick Murphys. Come on over! (Good thing I didn't imbed a song from Fever Pitch!)