By: Tom Cloutier
Last night I watched 19 innings of baseball at Fenway Park. Relive the longest game of the 2017 MLB season through my tired eyes.
My evening at Fenway began as it does for so many spectators, with a trip over the David Ortiz Bridge onto Yawkey way, or as I like to refer to it during this tumultuous time for the historic boulevard, a street to be named later. I wolfed down a greasy sausage loaded to the brim with peppers and onions before entering the Park just in time to settle into my seat for the first pitch.
Eduardo Rodriguez is on the hill for the Red Sox. He’s been in poor form since his return from injury, but the Blue Jays are in dead last in the AL East and it’s unlikely they can upset the Red Sox two nights in a row, right? He makes quick work of Toronto’s first three batters and Estrada does the same to the top of the Sox’ order.
E-Rod gives up a single to Kevin Pillar who later scored off a sacrifice fly. 1-0 Blue Jays. After a fly out by Betts, Hanley smacks a double to deep right field. His speed is clearly not what it used be and a poorly aimed throw saved him from trotting back to the dugout for trying to stretch a long single. Mitchy Two Bags can’t follow Hanley’s lead and flys out to left. Vasquez walks to juice the bases for Jackie Bradley Jr, who proceeds to strand all three runners. I swear the Red Sox’ batting average with runners on is sub-zero.
Red Sox and Blue Jays both bat a couple of times. Nothing comes of it. The 70 lb. 10 year old sitting in front of me has already eaten 3 slices of pizza, two hot dogs, a pretzel, and a bag of popcorn. I’m impressed.
Morales leads off the inning and Rodriguez gets two quick strikes on him then...BAM! He sends one into the Monster seats. 2-0 Blue Jays. Rodriguez manages to get out of the inning but his night is over. Time to hit the showers. Boston goes down in order.
Kelly takes over on the mound for Rodriguez and strikes out the first two batters faces with his characteristic heaters, before the third man up ends his at-bat with a fly out. Boston goes down in order...for the third straight inning. Kelly’s work is done and now it’s Addison Reed’s turn to make quick work of the heart of Toronto’s order sending Donaldson, Morales, and Bautista straight back to the dugout. Boston goes down in order (sensing a pattern here).
Kimbrel, the best closer in the American League marches onto the field to do what he does best, shut down hitters. Things don’t go exactly as planned but he gets out of the inning without giving up a run. The Blue Jays fans at Fenway begin to leave. They believe the game is over...they couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Red Sox have gone up and down in order for four straight innings going into the 9th. The bats are cold as ice and the entire ballpark is putting their figurative and literal rally caps on trying to will some offensive ability into this slumping team. Ousana comes in to attempt to close out this game. Good luck, pal. Benintendi walks on 7 pitches and the Red Sox have their first man on base in over an hour. Mookie takes three straight pitches before pouncing on one he likes for a double to left field, pushing Benintendi over to third. Ramirez and Moreland each proceed to ground out while simultaneously driving in a run a piece. Tie ballgame. Xander Bogaerts reaches base on a single to third. Vasquez begins walking straight back to the dugout from the on-deck circle. Confusion is in the air until Rafael Devers emerges to pinch hit. Confusion turns to palpable excitement. The power-hitting youngster has provided late game heroics before, and now would be a prime opportunity for him to do it again. He strikes out on three pitches. Extra Innings. Free baseball.
The next several innings go by in a blur as I slowly descend into madness. The crowd around me shrinks inning by inning. People are going home in droves. Pretty soon it’s just me and a few thousand of my closest friends. Eventually it feels like the atmosphere at a little league game. There’s not many of us and nobody really wants to be there, but misery loves company. I can hear each individual cheer and jeer echo throughout the ballpark.
Brandon Workman takes over in relief and sends the Jays up and down in order. Koehler relieves Osuna and allows a single to Nunez before getting out of the inning
Workman looks shakier this inning, giving up a four pitch walk to Joey Bats, then Pillar sacrifices him over to second. Saunders singles and sends the winning run to third. The dangerous Justin Smoak is at the plate and he launches a high fly ball to deep center. It has no chance of leaving the park, but the Jays don’t need it to. When JBJ catches the ball he is about 300 feet from home plate, Bautista is 90. He fires a laser, right on the money that one hops into Vasquez’ glove, who applies the tag to the sliding Bautista. He’s out! The inning is over. Don't run on JBJ.
More pitching changes than hits occur over the next several innings. As the innings drag on, people's google searches on their phones turn from “longest MLB game 2017” to “longest MLB game ever”. I find out its 25 innings. I’m just hoping to see a position player pitch. The organist plays “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the second 7th inning stretch, in the 14th. I wonder if they'll play "Sweet Caroline" again in the 16th. There’s only one guy left on the left field upper deck, he’s trying to start the wave by himself. Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” is played over the speakers to remind us all we’re supposed to wake up for work in just a few hours. It’s ok, I’m not going anywhere.
Fatigue, both mental and physical are clearly creeping into the players. Josh Donaldson, who leads off the inning, clearly didn’t have his afternoon nap, and he's cranky. Carson smith sends one over the inside part of the plate. The ump calls a strike, Donaldson seems to disagree. He takes the scream at the ump right now as opposed to make comments in the post-game interview later route. The ump isn’t wearing his anti-harassment arm band, but manages to stand strong and tosses Donaldson before the John Gibbons can scamper out to home plate to intervene. The rest of the inning carries on in standard fashion, no offense, and we’re off the 19th.
Hector Velasquez gets the ball as the 12th pitcher for the Red Sox tonight. He sends two hitters packing before giving up a single, then gets the third out on a liner to Mookie. The heart of the order is coming up for the Sox, with Mookie leading off the inning. He slaps a double off the monster. The remaining crowd is electric. Hanley swaggers up to the plate. He falls down to 0-2 on two pitches, then fouls off one more to stay alive. On the next pitch, he hits a bloop single into right field. It’s the most beautiful blooper I’ve ever seen. Mookie is charging around third, I don’t think he even looked at the third base coach. He wants to go home as bad as everyone in the ballpark. The throw is late and off the mark. Mookie easily crosses home plate, game over. Red Sox win, 3-2.
View from my seat below:
I’m still not convinced the game is over. I think, as I write this, I may be dreaming, and any moment now I will wake up in my seat at Fenway. The sun is beginning to peak over the Green Monster. I hear the crack of the bat, Smoak lines out third to as we head into the bottom 34th. The top of the order is up for the Sox, not that it means anything anymore, let’s see if these boys can finally win it.
Source: (Meme Generator) (Twitter: @_DroppedTheBall)