First, thank God for Wily Mo, who unloaded on the meatball that became his third career grand slam in the 8th inning like a drowning man lunging for a life preserver.
The relieved grin on his face and the way Manny and Papi hugged him when he got back to the dugout...I even got a little teary-eyed. I was just so happy and relieved for him, never mind the go-ahead runs for my team.
Looking back on it now, it's like the game didn't start until then. Before that, the post I was drafting in my head included the phrases "a small village left on base" and "at the rate he's going, Wily Mo is going to start getting heckled by Red Sox fans outside his window at night, let alone at the ballpark." I definitely like the revisions the Sox made to the story line from the seventh inning on.
Another of the many things that makes me giddy about this team, meanwhile, is the mix on the roster of veterans and journeymen and rookies and how they all play off each other. Papi and Manny have Wily Mo to mentor, for example.
And Curt has Joshie. After the game was over--after Beckett, clearly more relaxed by the grand slam*, came in and just blew guys away left and right before departing--Schilling and Joshie kibbutzed in the dugout. Curt looked over at his protege, listening intently to what something he was saying. And for just a second, Curt had a look on his face like he would carry Joshie around in his mouth by the scruff of his neck if he could. Just like Papi had hugged Wily Mo about four times after the granny. It's like they all have their little cubs.
BTW, Beckett used a changeup as an out pitch tonight. Eckersley, in mentioning this on the postgame show, made it clear he also loves him pretty hard.
Anyway, where most of the rest of the players' mentors are in their same position--pitchers with pitchers and hitters with hitters--Jonathan's buddy seems to be Jason Varitek.
After the grand slam, when Jonathan was called in, I expected him to get through the inning on approximately three pitches. But the cold and wet, plus the three-run lead against a relatively soft and demoralized lineup, meant he didn't seem as pumped up as he normally does. Slippery footing probably didn't help either--I don"t know the official statistics, but I'm sure I haven't seen Jonathan get to a 3-ball count too many times probably ever, and certainly not very often this season.
After issuing a walk (that one just his fourth of the season) it seemed Jonathan was fussing a little bit. But thanks to Varitek's guidance, ultimately Papelbon climbed the ladder on Corey Patterson and nailed down the win for Beckett. It doesn't seem like Jonathan necessarily has to be helped along so much like that most of the time, but today I got the sense 'Tek took over after a certain point. And then, of course, ran out after the last swing-and-miss to slap the ball back into Jonathan's glove and pat him on the head like always. Jonathan did not tell Tek he's awesome so I could read his lips saying it this time (unlike in Texas, when he got so excited he started hollering clearly decipherable praise to the Captain from the mound), but I'm sure he said something along those lines.
And so, another team win. Sock-Gate in our rear-view mirror, and the Yankees in our sights for another wild weekend. In half an hour, it'll be Friday.
Can life get better? I submit that it cannot.
*This evidenced by the fact that his gum-chewing, while remaining constant, slowed to a fraction of the pace it had picked up by right around the sixth inning. The gum-chewing is, at times he's not fist-pumping or yelling "fuck", the only indicator of Josh Beckett's mindset.