Game 24 // Fifth Inning, Boston // Rivalry, Renewed



Some time ago, something roared, or attacked, or boiled over into madness. It battled, it made miracles, it embodied good vs. evil and was in every way historic. It put New York behind navy pinstripes and Boston in red and white, with Stephen King and Billy Crystal awaiting either rapture or apocalypse, awaiting the final judgment between empire and curse. Mariano against Manny, Pedro against Jeter.

It was the greatest rivalry in sports.

Yankees vs. Red Sox.

2003 was legendary, ‘04 was surreal. By 2007, Boston had won twice, and in ‘09 New York added to their shelf another trophy. But then, the Sox missed the playoffs, for four straight years. Then the Yanks fell apart, too, with the retirement of a generation that had propped up the franchise for two decades.

Joe Torre left for L.A., then for the MLB offices; Don Zimmer passed away; Manny Ramirez called it quits. The snapshot of the brawl in the ’03 ALCS now reads like a postcard of old history, with a caption of Tim McCarver’s appalled narration, “That is absolutely awful…”

If you showed me a video of the old Yankee Stadium, the upper decks booming out refrains of pure malice from the die-hards (Who’s your daaddddyy??), I almost wouldn’t believe it.

Is this still the same rivalry? I think so. I hope so. But it’s in transition, needing all the help we can get from its forefathers, A-Rod and Papi, passing down mutual hate like an old family recipe, setting up the next brawl, and the one after, and so on until actual war. Where’s a roided-up, rage-stoked Roger Clemens when you need him?

So tonight, out at Fenway Park, we get year 100+ of the rivalry, with a Yankee team on a losing-streak, and a Sox team out for a sweep—both teams predicted for some unclear amount of success.

And we’re joined by the Sunday Night ESPN crew, who’ve made a fine buck off these games, as they get used to their new trio, and erase (literally) any memory of Curt Schilling’s ’04 heroics and ’16 infamies from their memory bank. Weird… 

David Price is on the mound, who’s been struggling to make his mark, but he’s got a chance here to send Yankee Nation home with their tails between their legs—step one in the city-wide endearment of a brand new Red Sock(x).

He strides up to the mound for the 5th inning in a 4-3 game that’s already been a battle.

First batter: Austin Romine. Strikeout.

Next up: Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s riding—surfing—a giant wave of love from the fans after stealing home last week against the Rays. And he’s now one of the elder statesmen in this rivalry, the latest in a long legacy of traitors for Sox fans—from Babe Ruth to Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs to Johnny Damon.

Price hits him in the ribs. Uh-oh… Not even close, on a changeup that flew way left of the mark. Are we getting Price the Jekyll or Price the Hyde?

Brett Gardner comes up now, with yet another pitch up-and-in, almost up at his head. Price exhales visibly into the night-time Boston cold, shakes himself out and throws home again. Another pitch inside. The camera zooms in, hoping to catch a mound meltdown in perfect HD in the wild, as Price reads the signs from his catcher and deals again.

Four-pitch walk. Uh-oh…

Looking at once overly casual and overly nervous, Price now resets himself paces around the mound as the crowd boos loudly, wildy. But not for him.

Alex Rodriguez strides up to the plate, the boos pouring out in droves as he steps into the batter’s box. He’s got the confident, lonely arrogance of Tiger Woods, of a man disgraced, looking to add to his already big night as he sits on career home run number 692. P.S: what’s with this bat routine?

A fastball comes down the middle on the third pitch, and A-Rod rips a near-repeat of his first hit—a long, high fly ball to center, going, going, just not gone. Jackie Bradley, Jr. leaps up into the center-field wall, with Brock Holt backup-leaping, as they both just miss it and the ball thuds off the green padding, down onto the warning track.

Yankees score two, and it’s now 5-4.

Mark Teixeira comes up—more trouble. He gets a slider that doesn’t slide, or else a fastball that isn’t fast, and he batters it down the left-field line like it was set up on a tee. The lead jumps to 6-4, the Sox pitching coach comes out to visit Price.

Price stays in, Castro grounds out, Headley strikes out. But the lead has flipped, in favor of a Yankee team that desperately wants out from this losing streak.

This could be the inning that makes the early season for these two teams.



David Ortiz comes up now: Boston hero, Yankee killer, and the latest big star to announce a Jeter-style year-long retirement party. He’s been playing on god-level this week, with two straight nights of home runs, including Saturday’s game-winner—coming through on a miracle promise that he’d hit one for young Maverick, a child battling a heart defect out in Wyoming, a long-distance Sox fanatic.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Five crazed fans in the outfield now wave individual O-R-T-I-Z letters drawn in red onto poster boards, as if bowing to the leader of some new religion, and the giant Citgo sign standing beyond the left-field wall, just for a moment—am I imagining this??—projects an image of his face, “CITGO” changing for an instant to “PAPI,” flickering back again before I can double-take.

It’s a quick 3-0 count to Ortiz, and he takes the fourth pitch down the middle—the bat still as if glued to his shoulder, his knees not bending at all.

Then a big, big cut and he’s half a second late.

The next pitch is hittable, and hit—lashed into right field on a hard, hard line-drive single.

The camera cuts up to Fred Lynn, up in one of the VIP suites, ‘75 MVP for the Sox and maybe the only man in the building in the same revered league as Papi.

Hanley Ramirez comes up now, topping a bouncer to third–but he’s safe at first, Ortiz out on the force.

Time now for Travis Shaw, with the chance to tie it, who’s been one of the American League’s big surprises in 2016, filling in for the injured, the gluttonous Pablo Sandoval, with gold-glove fielding and enough hitting to have already racked up a 1.5 wins-above-replacement.

Before I can look up his exact stats, Shaw rockets the first pitch from Eovaldi down the right-field line, toward the Pesky Pole but nowhere near it, well beyond it into the stands, as his red hoodie quivers in the breeze, now rounding first base like Elliot from E.T. taking off on his bike, the Extra Terrestrial peeking out from the front-wheel basket, wowed by the yays and hoorays of a Fenway Park gone wild with joy.

Tie game. 6-6. We’ve got a classic on our hands.

Holt grounds out, and then Vasquez grounds out. But the Sox sneak away with the sweep innings later (on a huge home-run from Vasquez himself).

Don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of the Yankees. But we’ve got a clear winner in the early goings here. All Sox so far.





3rd Inning: NYM vs. SFG

6th Inning: LAD vs. MIA

5th Inning: HOU vs. BOS

3rd Inning: WSH vs. ATL

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

8th Inning: CHC vs. CIN

8th Inning: SFG vs. LAD