It is generally against my religion to miss any part of a Yankee/Red Sox game in mid-August. Yet, as 5 p.m. rolled around yesterday afternoon and I hadn’t slept in anything more comfortable than a coach seat on an airplane since Wednesday night in Jerusalem, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
After a nap of nearly 4.5 hours, I woke up to check the score and saw a pitcher’s duel. The top of the seventh inning rolled around, and A.J. Burnett hadn’t allowed a hit since Jacoby Ellsbury singled to start the game. Exhausted and fighting a cold, I dragged myself out of bed to plop myself down on the couch. I assumed that some team would plate a run before too long, and I would be able to get back to bed.
Three hours later, I was still waiting.
As the game dragged on, it was a tense affair. Burnett left to a standing ovation in the 8th with the potential go-ahead run on base. Despite a close call on the Ellsbury stolen base, Phil Hughes retired Dustin Pedroia to keep the game scoreless.
The innings continued to tick by. One-two-three went the Yanks in the 8th. Down went the Sox in the 9th as Mariano Rivera continued this run through the AL. With the winning run on third in the 9th, Jorge Posada struck out swinging against Daniel Bard. “Free baseball,” Michael Kay said. Little did he realize just how much free baseball we would get.
The 10th, 11th and 12th innings belonged to Al Aceves. He allowed a walk and a single with two outs in the 10th but would retire the next seven Red Sox — three by the K — to keep the game moving. The Sox’s flame throwers fared just as well. Daniel Bard gave way to Ramon Ramirez gave way to Jonathan Papelbon gave way to Manny Delcarmen gave way to Takashi Saito.
In the 13th and 14th, I held my breath. It was nearing midnight, and I could barely keep my eyes open. The Yanks, though, could not lose this game. I had already invested far too much of what remaining energy I had left into watching it. After a 1-2-3 13th, Bruney ran into a spot of trouble in the 14th. But with two on, Jason Varitek made an out for the 6th time to give the Yanks a shot.
Here, the tide began to turn. Prior to the game, the Red Sox had DFA’d both Billy Traber and John Smoltz, Thursday’s sacrificial lambs, and Junichi Tawaza had been called up. Tawaza made headlines this winter when, as an amateur, he opted to sign with the Sox instead of any Japanese team. His Big League debut would be less than successful.
In the 14th, every Yankee hit Tazawa hard. Hideki Matsui blasted a liner into center that hung up just long enough for Ellsbury to snare it. Posada and Robinson Cano lined back to back singles, and Eric Hinske nearly won the game. In a spot of bad luck, J.D. Drew galloped into the right field corner, stuck out his glove and just barely snared the ball. It was the defensive play of the game and a stellar catch. The next hitter — Melky Cabrera — lined a ball down the right field line that went foul by a matter of inches. Bad luck again.
In the 15th, Phil Coke set down the anemic Red Sox in order, and I was a half-inning away from turning in. It was nearing 12:40, and my body was shutting down. I was so tired that, after Jeter singled to start the inning, I couldn’t get myself worked up over Johnny Damon’s pathetic and misguided bunt attempt. Mark Teixeira struck out.
It was do-or-die for me and this game. Either A-Rod would win it or I would go to bed. Three minutes later, I was fast asleep with a grin on my face, and the Yanks had a 4.5 game lead in their pocket.