Youkilis And All Boston Fans Score Winning Run In Do or Die Game Five At Fenway
Baseball, like sex, feels best when there's a happy ending.
So when J.D. Drew's single flew over the head of Tampa Bay right fielder Gabe Gross last night, allowing Kevin Youkilis to score the winning run in a thrilling come from behind win over the Rays, players and fans experienced a release of pent up frustration and outpouring of joy not felt in these parts in well, almost a week.
Boys and girls, let's hope this wasn't a one night stand.
Baseball often gets criticized for being too slow and clunky. And if last night's ALCS game had ended as it started - with these young and virile Rays and their almost teenager-like expressions of invincibility beating down the grizzled, lifeless Sox - I'd say the criticism was legit.
But the old guys got off the mat. The game reminded me of the fading but supremely dignified Burt Lancaster when he beds Susan Sarandon in "Atlantic City." Just when you (and he) are convinced there's no more adventures left, and the fat lady has sung, the geezer gets up for one more dangerous fling. (And a role, nine years later, in one of the finest baseball films ever, “Field of Dreams.”)
The Sox accomplished this feat - their eight run playoff comeback the best since 1929 - with some old school American League baseball: clutch hitting and homeruns. And like Burt in Atlantic City, they did it without Viagra, Cialis, or any other chemically synthesized male enhancement.
(I leave open the possibility, however, that our players, fearing the end of the line a la the 2004 pennant series against the Yankees, paid tribute to this do or die scenario with a swig of some leftover Kevin Millar whiskey.)
Alcohol induced fearlessness aside, the best thing about baseball (and sex) is the rise and release of tension. In every other aspect of life, we do our best to reduce stress. Not in baseball. Down seven runs at the start of the seventh inning, true fans eagerly embraced the ultimate tease of a late in the game miracle.
We make it to first base, so to speak, on the wings of a Dustin Pedroia RBI following a Jed Lowrie double and a single by Coco Crisp. Then David Ortiz, with his huge talent suppressed by an injured wrist and good pitching throughout this championship series, mashes a ball to right field for a three run home run. (Second base and the tension mounts…)
Jonathan Papelbon pitches a clean top of the eighth inning and our desire nearly becomes unbearable as we wait for the Frank TV commercials to end on TBS so the bottom of the inning can begin. (Third base and possibly beyond, in sight…)
And then it really gets good. Bottom of the eighth and the anticipation is thick. So much energy has built up in our collective loins, none of us can sit. So we stand and pray to the higher power for one more shot at nirvana and another home run; this time by Drew, the oft-injured but no longer maligned veteran outfielder with the big contract.
Two outs later Mark Kotsay doubles over the head of Tampa wunderkind B.J. Upton and we’re screaming for Coco to take us all the way home. But Crisp knows the drill: slow down the game, protect the plate; it will feel so much better if we prolong this misery/ecstasy.
Finally, our man Coco strokes the ball to right field and Kotsay skids home with the seventh and tying run. But what’s this? The umpire calls Crisp out when he gets tagged trying to stretch his hit into a double. (Aaargh, more waiting.)
I must say: with the score tied, our young lefthander Justin Masterson about to take the mound in the top of the ninth and everyone sweaty and exhausted from all the exuberant screaming, there wasn’t a single person in the vicinity who thought we would lose this game (and not finish happy!) Because once that inexorable geyser of momentum had been unleashed there was no putting it back in the proverbial bottle.
Admittedly, extra innings was the last thing we wanted; not with these youthful Rays and their inexplicably uncanny ability to crush our hardball dreams.
And so with two men on in the top of the ninth, one out, and the powerful Carlos Pena at the plate – he hit a two run homer earlier in the game off of starter Daisuke Matsuzaka; and thanks to the TV announcer for letting us know Pena hasn’t grounded into a double play in ages – Masterson induced a perfect double play. (We can see home plate in front us boys and girls…)
And so with two outs in the Red Sox half of the ninth (isn’t the sensation of winning so much more pleasurable when you’re down to your seemingly last breadth?) Youkilis comes up big with an infield hit and takes second base on an Evan Longoria throwing error. Jason Bay is walked intentionally. And finally, momentously, foreplay concluded and all thoughts of past indiscretions thrown to the wayside, J.D. Drew delivers on his promise, climaxing one of the more memorable baseball games in recent Sox history. (Was it as good for you as it was for the Sox?)
Regardless of the eventual outcome of this series, don’t let anyone (Red Sox fan or not) ever get away with arguing there’s a better sport on the planet than baseball.
It’s a religious experience. (Oh my God! Oh My God!)