So it's the bottom of the third inning and Casey Wright is enjoying a 3-0 lead over Matsuzaka, already in my head I'm seeing a redux of the last Matsuzaka start at Fenway, and I'm saying as much to my family. "I know exactly how this is gonna go," I'm telling them. "We're going to make this guy look like Cy freakin' Young, Matsuzaka will get no run support again and we're gonna lose."
Serves me right that no sooner do I say that than Manny launches one. In the slow-motion replay the ball seems to leave his bat at a near 90-degree angle, and it takes all of three seconds to get out of the park. Manny, meanwhile, untwists in that slow way he has when he's really unloaded, bringing his arms back round straight-elbowed in front of him. I know he's posing, but I also feel there's an element there of coming out of a trance before he can begin his shuffle around the bases.
Now, of course, I'm all optimism. All right, they're getting to the kid, I think. OK, now Drew, base hit, and let's get a rally going. Briefly I contemplate getting up for a drink, settling in for the long haul. Already I'm skipping ahead to Mike Lowell, thinking, if he can double Drew in--
And then from the television there is an unmistakable CRACK and the ball is rocketing out toward the deepest part of the field, landing behind the bullpens almost even with the wall at the triangle, edging into Red Seat territory. It is an almighty blast out of the park by JD Drew, and my thoughts of a drink are forgotten. Now I'm just thinking of that Lowell double.
There's still nobody out. I feel a bit guilty for being so audacious in the face of the baseball gods, but I'm beginning to think we're going to tie up the ballgame this inning. Theo is shown in his box mouthing "Oh my God."
Which is when Lowell reprises Manny's moon shot, launching another offering from Wright over everything in left. By now it's clear we're watching something special. Fenway is dialing it up to 11 as Varitek comes to the plate. That was a relatively decent pitch Lowell got hold of, not like the fat meatballs for Manny and JD. That gravy train might have dried up, but if Tek can get on base, maybe--
And blam, the fourth home run of the inning is headed for the Monster seats.
The last time what we saw last night happened in the American League was 1963 (interesting bit of trivia: Tito Francona Sr. was involved at the time). It has never happened in Red Sox history. By the time the Captain was touching 'em all, Fenway was at post-season thunder levels. Even on TV it looked like an earthquake of 10.0 on the Richter Scale was going through the place.
After that, for me it's mostly a blur until we get to Papelbon, though I do remember a random appearance by Andy Pettitte, who held the Sox down within a run of the Yanks in the sixth, but Matsuzaka slammed the door on the top of the Yankees order, striking out Damon, getting a groundout from Jeter and another K on Abreu. The Sox waited out the inconvenience of Pettitte and then Lowell hit a three-run jimmy-jack to make it 7-4, Boston off the re-exposed underbelly of Yankees pitching, which came in the form of Scott Proctor.
In retrospect, I can only see the ensuing events as mere setting the stage for another vintage Papelbon performance. Donnelly did a serviceable job after a spent Okajima left 'em loaded, although it was really thanks to the heroics of Dustin Pedroia's leap to glove a screaming liner off the bat of Josh Phelps that the Sox got out of the inning with the save situation intact. Pedroia gets my kudos for that, and also for reminding me so vividly and consistently of Spot the Dog.
You get the sense that this is the kind of scenario Jonathan dreams about anyway: 1-run lead, ninth, Fenway against the Yankees, facing Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Rodriguez.
Damon turned the heat around again, this time on a liner to left. He still scares me--and earns my healthy respect--at the plate. But Jonathan was spitting nails; I'm grow more and more addicted to his youthful energy, the glower under the brim of his cap, the long, smoldering stare in at the plate for the sign.
Another thing I am loving about Jonathan is that he seems to have saved the real pain this series for Jeter. Saturday he went right after him with a 98-mph bullet; yesterday it was three straight pitches, looking, swinging, swinging, see ya later. Jeter mouthed "Wow" as he headed back to the dugout; Jonathan stalked around the infield, awaiting his next victim.
It didn't surprise me that he walked Abreu. Which is not at all to say Jonathan did it on purpose--I just think the Papelbon-Rodriguez matchup was preordained. It had to happen. In the end, A-Rod grounded out to third, a bit of an anticlimax, maybe--I would always rather have seen A-Rod swing and miss so hard he fell down like Dmitri Young against Pedro in 2004--but acceptable.
And the sweep was complete.
I don't care what month it is or who's hurt. Boston's got a lighter spring in its step this morning.
P.S. Dear ESPN, thank you for replaying the four homers using the ESPN Deportes call. This is why you are still better than FOX.