Beating the Yankees is a pretty awesome thing unto itself. Beating them at Fenway, on the first crisp, warm night the season’s given us, when they’ve already pretty much written the game off as a W and have set their collective minds on the post-game spread and drinks at Daisy Buchanan’s is simply the greatest feeling in the world.
Better than your first kiss. Better than finding a twenty dollar bill in the street. Better than finding a robot in the forest, repairing its leg, and becoming best friends with it.
For most of the night, it was the A-Rod and Andy Show. And watching Rodriguez effortlessly launch two balls out of the park while Pettitte kept our hitters in full nelson was an exercise in frustration. Save for a well-timed home run from Varitek, three hits from Drew and a nice ass-backwards-over-the-bullpen-fence attempt by Coco on an A-Rod homer, this was looking like one to simply file away and forget. The Sox were down 6-2, and looking ready for last rites. (Side note: Is A-Rod the most overly-animated guy in the majors? Seeing him wave his hands and shout to himself in the dugout after each at-bat… it’s like watching some f–ked up dinner theatre production of Damn Yankees. I almost expect to see him working a hat and cane.)
But then the eighth inning came, and it was almost like someone uncorked a little of that 2004 magic. Ortiz gets a double off Mike Myers — who, let’s face it, is never gonna be the “Papi Neutralizer” they must’ve figured he’d be (I won’t mention Tiz’s “slide” into second base which took years off my life). Then Manny, in a fantastic at-bat, works a walk off Vizcaino from an 0-2 count. Add a fielder’s choice from Drew and a single from Lowell and suddenly it’s 6-3 and we’re feeling it.
So in comes Rivera. But we’ve stopped fearing him a long time ago. And it’s a pretty liberating feeling when you don’t start wetting yourself at Rivera’s very presence. And just to underscore how much the guy’s become our bitch, what has been the weakest part of the order unloads on him: Tek drills a single and Coco, on the first pitch, skips the ball into the darkest corner of right field, getting a bases-clearing triple that ties up the game and sends the house into delirium. It’s a scenario Covelli’s probably replayed in his mind a bazillion times over the last couple weeks, and here it was, actually happening. The finishing blow, a pinch-hit single from the smokin’ hot Alex Cora, put the Sox up 7-6.
But we weren’t done doling out the frustration. In the top of the ninth, with the Papel-Bot unavailable, Japan’s own Hideki Okajima was called upon to close out what immediately became the biggest game of the season. He gets Jeter on a ground-out, walks Abreu, then faces A-Rod, who represents the go-ahead run. And these days, you’d rather stick your nuts in an electric fan than face that situation. But Hideki-San comes through, jamming Alex with a fast-ball and inducing a soft liner to second as fellow countryman Matsuzaka and resident loon Tavarez cheer him on from the top step of the dugout. Then DH Thompson strikes out to end it. And sh-t, as they say, goes nuts.
It was a game that we didn’t allow to get away, even when it seemed impossible to snatch back. And it serves as notice to the Yanks that the faces on this 2007 team may be new, but the never-say-die comeback spirit is alive and kickin’.
Was Roger watching? I certainly hope so.