Keeping The Faith!
“Welcome back to the postseason, Halos, that most celebrated
of achieved destinations, where tradition dictates you’ll soon
be squished in the manner of a grape beneath the dancing
feet of Jonathan Papelbon.”
— Jeff Miller, OC Register
Ummmm, I don’t think so. Not even close. The only “grapes” involved in the Angels’ sweep of the Red Sox were the kind used to make this:
But let’s start at the beginning. Thursday flew by as I tackled a mountain of paperwork at the office, canceled my subscription to the OC Register and spoke with the editor’s secretary. She provided me some phone numbers for the mucky-mucks in the sports department but I was unable to reach any of them on their direct lines. Gee, I wonder if they were out at the Big A with their complementary press passes? By the time I got home, I was fired up and ready for a good game. With all the talk about the “one-two” punch of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, I was praying John Lackey would have his best stuff. Did he ever. It was a great pitchers duel that continued into the 5th inning and we were all holding our breaths, wondering who would blink first. Lester did. Erick Aybar led off the bottom of the 5th with a double, Chone Figgins bunted him over to 3rd and Mr. Patience, Bobby Abreu, skillfully drew his third walk of the game. Then it happened…my Torii Hunter blasted one up, up and over the centerfield wall!
It was a thing of beauty, but given the Red Sox ability to throw runs up on the board in later innings, I said a quick prayer for insurance runs. Kendry Morales delivered in the 7th with an RBI and one more run came in on a bad throw by Jason Bay. After giving up only 4 hits, Big John Lackey left the mound after 7 & 1/3 to thunderous applause. Darren Oliver was superb, finishing the game without allowing a single base runner. Fantastic! I had hoped and prayed for a win and got just that. To top it all off…it was a shut-out! Sweet.
As you can imagine, I was itching to update my blog after Thursday night’s win. After attempting for nearly 2 hours to access MLB Blogs, I gave up and hoped I’d have some time at work on Friday to send out congratulations to my boys and revel in the victory a little. It didn’t happen as, once again, it was a busy day, cut short by my early departure to get to the Big A for all the action of Game 2. Since I’d gone into work wearing my World Series Champs t-shirt, jersey, hat and lucky postseason red underwear, I only needed to feed the birds, grab my hubby and get on the road. There was no traffic at all on the 5 freeway and we were in the stadium by 5 PM. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the number of “fans” who were attempting to enter the ball park with ALCS tickets!! I use the term “fans” lightly as true baseball fans undoubtedly know the difference between ALCS and ALDS. One unfortunate woman had bought Game 2…Game 2 at Fenway! Jeez!!
We headed to our seats which were in a very lively terrace section on the right field side. I told my husband I needed to eat some dinner quickly because I knew I would not be able to eat once the game started. This was not a typical fun night at the ball park. My nerves were kicking in big time and at no time would I be taking my eyes off the field. I inhaled my sandwich and nervously waited. They showed the new pre-game video montage again and again I became emotional. Okay, that’s an understatement. I began sobbing and didn’t think I’d stop. The whole Nick Adenhart thing just hit so close to home. I was missing my Dad. This was my first postseason game without him. My husband was helpless to comfort me so he just handed me those stiff, scratchy stadium napkins and let me have my cry. Jered Weaver took the mound and wrote “N.A.” in the dirt of the mound with his finger and I let loose one last sob, then got myself together. I grabbed my thundersticks and began cheering with all my might. I’ll spare you the pitch-by-pitch recap. The Red Sox scored first in the top of the 4th but the Angels responded quickly with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. The Angels broke the tie in the bottom of the 7th with Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis leading the charge. Josh Beckett was done with 4 earned runs, his “punch” never materializing. Jered Weaver pitched his heart out, allowing only one run on 2 hits. He matched Lackey’s 7 & 1/3 innings and received a well-deserved standing O when he left the field.
Darren Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes provided solid relief and once again, it was an amazing game! The crowd roared with every strike, every out, every Angels’ hit and every Angels’ run. We were on our feet nearly the entire game. As we departed the Big A, the crowd was chanting “Sweep, sweep, sweep!” so loudly, they were probably heard in Huntington Beach. I didn’t join in. I couldn’t. You know how superstitious I am. And that night, my superstitions got the best of me as I decided NOT to blog. I hadn’t blogged after Thursday’s game and they won on Friday. So, if I didn’t blog after Friday’s game, well, I just felt it would bode better for Sunday’s game. But Sunday would be at Fenway. Fenway. I decided to remain hopefully, cautiously, optimistic.
2:00 AM, Sunday morning and I couldn’t sleep. I scrolled through the recordings on the DVR, looking for something that would perhaps lull me to sleep. Instead, I watched the Angels’ rally, held after their last regular season home game…again. I listened to Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu fire up the crowd. Jered Weaver described how honored he was to receive the first Nick Adenhart pitching award. I watched the fans cheering the players as they piled aboard a bus bound for John Wayne Airport. Then I fell asleep and dreamed of another Angels’ victory.
Let me just say, baseball can do for me what football will never do: get my butt up at 9:00 AM on a Sunday. Here in So Cal, it was overcast and gloomy. I turned the game on and saw a bright, sunny day at Fenway. I wondered who the sun was shining for. Scott Kazmir was good, not great, but at least he kept the Red Sox from running away with it. The Red Sox had a big 3 run inning in the 3rd and Kendry Morales cut the lead with a solo HR in the top of the 4th. The Sox scored 2 more in the bottom of the 4th and were all smiles in the dugout with a 5-1 lead. The crowd at Fenway seemed to finally perk up as well. The Angels scored one more in the 6th which hardly phased the Red Sox or their fans. But the Angels got their attention in the 8th when Bobby Abreu had a lead-off double and Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner walked Vlad Guerrero. Tony Francona decided he’d make the call to the bullpen. Well, I don’t think he used the phone. I think he just talks to Papelbon in his head, like some people talk to God. Honestly, I expected Papelbon to make an entrance like this:
Or maybe like this:
But no, he took the mound like a regular guy and promptly gave up a two-run single to Juan Rivera. What?!? This was interesting. But only for a moment as Reggie Willits, pinch running for Rivera, was quickly picked off to end the inning. The Red Sox then added a run in the bottom of the 8th and again sent Papelbon out to secure the final 3 outs of the game and what they expected would be a 6-4 win. Or not. The first two outs came fairly easy but the 2009 Angels never say die. Aybar singled up the middle, then took 2nd base, uncontested. Chone Figgins managed a walk of his own, bringing Abreu to the plate. When Abreu smacked the Green Monster with a solid double and Aybar came around to score, I was cheering and waving my rally monkey. And when they walked my Torii Hunter and loaded the bases, I yelled, “Make ’em pay, Vladdy! Make ’em pay!” Vladdy drove Papelbon’s first pitch right up the middle and dropped it right in front of Jacoby Ellsbury. Now I was screaming!!! Figgins scored the tying run and Abreu hustled in for the go-ahead. This was unbelievable! For the first time this entire season, I didn’t panic when Brian Fuentes took the mound. I knew what had just happened would not be in vain. I knew the unimagineable was about to happen. This would be a sweep! Fuentes did what Papelbon couldn’t and shut down the side, 1-2-3.
It was a half hour before I felt confident that none of my neighbors had called 911 to report my screams of joy which could totally have been mistaken for the blood-curdling sort. It was hard to do much of anything the rest of the day. I realized I’d spent the previous four days a wound-up bundle of nerves. Now it was time to exhale. Oh, and watch every second of news coverage I could find. The idiots at TBS immediately cut away at the end of the game to show a re-run of “Seinfeld”. Not even a moment of locker room champagne dousings. Somehow I find it hard to believe they would’ve done that had the Red Sox just completed a sweep in the ALCS. I guess my guys will continue to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the MLB…no respect, I tell ya. Whatever. We’re used to the unfair coverage and the lack of respect. Just think how stupid the local reporters look now. They all predicted a sweep…by the Red Sox. That’s okay. Everyone can keep dissing my guys, but the fans will always keep the faith. We know how bad our Angels want this. And we know what they’re playing for.
Angels Baseball…Fan Strong!