RIP Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield, my favorite Red Sox player, passed away this past Sunday from brain cancer. He was 57.

(Yes, it’s a bit unnerving to realize he was only 3 years older than me.)

I became a fan of his when he came to the Red Sox in 1995 and had two-third of a Cy Young caliber campaign. (Having him on my fantasy baseball team that year didn’t hurt.) He’d come up with the Pittsburgh Pirates and thrown almost 100 brilliant innings in 1992, but couldn’t repeat it in 1993, and got sent down and then released. A knuckleball pitcher, he relied on a pitch which was notoriously hard to control. Go read up on how baseball pitches work, and then read how knuckleball pitches work, and frankly it’s almost hard to believe any pitcher manages to throw strikes with them with any regularity.

It’s easy to love the great sluggers like Albert Pujols (and I do love Albert Pujols), but I also love the quirky players who bring something unusual to the game. Ichiro Suzuki’s unbelievable ability to make contact. Mike Boddicker’s ridiculous curveball. And Tim Wakefield having an almost 20-year career in the Majors throwing a knuckleball.

One of my enduring baseball memories was attending the Red Sox/Twins game on July 24, 1995. This is the only time I recall attending a game at Fenway where I sat in the bleachers. Wakefield started the game and gave up a triple to Chuck Knoblauch. He then struck out the next two batters, while Knoblauch danced around third base. Finally, while facing the next batter, he looked over at Knoblauch and cocked his head towards home plate, saying “If you’re going to go, then go.” Knoblauch went, and Wakefield threw him out on the steal attempt. Presumably on the knuckleball, since he rarely threw anything else, although he did occasionally throw a “fast” ball which was probably slower than most pitchers’ breaking balls.

The other memorable moment was in a game I didn’t watch, since I refuse to watch Yankees playoff games, and none more so than the 2004 ALCS. In game 3, the Yankees were tee’ing off of Red Sox pitching, to the tune of 10 runs in 3-1/3 innings. While the Sox were not completely out of it, Wakefield came in and threw 3-1/3 innings himself, giving up another 5 runs but likely helping save the rest of the pitching staff for the team’s historic comeback over the next 4 games.

Wakefield supposedly had a team-friendly contract which got renewed every year until the end of his career. I haven’t been able to find details of this deal, so maybe I imagined it, but as a very durable mid-rotation starter and long reliever, he probably appreciated the job security and he objectively made plenty of money while being able to stay with the Red Sox for the rest of his career. Sometimes it’s not all about the money. And he did win 2 championships with them.

Although he never got the attention of David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, or other star players, Tim Wakefield was an ever-present part of the Red Sox for a really, really long time, baffling pitchers (and catchers) with his ridiculous stuff.

Thanks for everything, Tim.

2018 in Review

Of the many personal looks back at 2018 I’ve read over the last couple of days, I think the most memorable to read was that of Peter Sagal on Twitter. My year wasn’t that great – I doubt many peoples’ was – but it was still pretty great.

I rarely talk about work here, but a lot of the great was due to work. Over a year ago we had some shuffling on my team after which one of my long-tile colleagues jokingly asked me how it felt to be the senior engineer on the project I was on. That question caused me to realize that this was a point where I could continue cruising along the way I had been – plugging away on my assigned tasks – or I could step up to more of a leadership role. I don’t at this point fully recall how my head worked through it all, but as you can guess I decided to do the latter. (“Up my game” was a phrase that went through my head.) I wrote a little bit about this last year, and this year felt like the payoff of what began back then.

Anyway, the past year-plus has involved shepherding the project through some major milestones, helping to plan and organize them, and also helping to onboard two new hires.

It was a year of learning a bunch of new skills, and a number of lessons too, some of which also opened my mind about, well, working with people and just plain interacting with people. It wasn’t all stuff that was right in my wheelhouse, and it was certainly frazzling and exhausting at times, but I can look back and feel like I – and the whole team – accomplished some great stuff.

One thing I’ve been working on embracing through all of this is the value of being positive: Giving people encouragement and speaking up when people do good stuff. I’m a bit of a cynic at heart so this doesn’t always come naturally to me, but there are so many opportunities in software to be negative – many of them part of the normal flow of the job, because software development means bug fixes, revision, refinement, and critique. I’ve been finding that it helps to balance out dealing with the negative parts by also emphasizing the positive. (At least I think it helps! It helps me when other people do it.) This seems obvious in hindsight, but it’s such a wide-ranging principle that it’s something I’m still working on, and I keep thinking of more nuances to it, things I can improve on or should stop doing.

And as you might imagine it’s only a short hop from thinking about this at work to thinking about it in my personal life, social interactions, and on the Internet.

So anyway, I’ve grown a lot the last year (I think), but there’s always more to learn and new ways to improve. Plenty to keep working on in 2019!

My personal life didn’t have quite the same feeling of accomplishment, but I had a good year there, too. I didn’t take a lot of vacation last year, but we did have a nice two-week trip back east to visit our families and stay at our beach house over the summer. And I went to the World Science Fiction Convention.

I also had a grand old time all summer following my Boston Red Sox, who jumped out to a big lead early in the season and never let it go. I felt like this team’s offense wasn’t close to the level of the 2013 team’s wrecking crew, and beyond Chris Sale I was pretty concerned that the pitching staff wouldn’t carry them deep in the playoffs.

And boy was I wrong.

David Price reinvented himself as a control pitcher, the bullpen went from question mark to exclamation point, and the offense kept coming up with big hits at the best times, especially hometown hero and mid-season acquisition Steve Pearce, who must have found the whole thing an unbelievable experience.

And then there was Andrew Benintendi, who I think provided more sheer fun and enthusiasm than just about every other player in the postseason put together:

Benintendi saves ALCS game 4
Great leaping catch in World Series game 2

All of which added up to a surprising and very satisfying World Series championship, the franchise’s fourth this century, and a lot of great October entertainment for me!

We’ve wrapped up the year in a low-key manner. Unfortunately Debbi came down with a bad cold on Christmas Day and it’s lingered through New Year’s. We did manage a trip up to San Francisco, and also out to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, as well as having people over for games and to hang out on New Year’s Eve afternoon, but otherwise we’ve been hanging out at home trying to get her well.

Hopefully she’s turning the corner and that 2019 will start looking up shortly.

Farewell to Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield is my all-time favorite Red Sox, for several reasons, but here are two:

1) I picked him up for my fantasy team when he came to the Red Sox in 1995, and he promptly had the season of his life (despite fading down the stretch). We might never see a knuckleballer have a season that great ever again (considering we only see a really good knuckleballer about once per generation).

2) He helped save the staff in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees were pounding all comers (including Tim) into the dirt en route to one of the most lopsided playoff victories ever. Wakefield threw over 3 innings and saved other good pitchers for Game 4 and the Sox’ historic and unique comeback.

Plus of course he’s one of the longest-tenured Sox (17 years!), pitched longer than most (he’s 45, one of the few players last season older than me), and seemed as dedicated to the team as anyone. While David Ortiz has been the face of the franchise this past decade, Wakefield has always been right there, usually an average starting pitcher, but never as flashy as some of the other players.

Wakefield retired from playing baseball today, which is the end of an era for the team as far as I’m concerned.

I saw him pitch in person a few times, but none more memorable than one game at Fenway in his magical 1995 season, against the Twins. As I recall, he somehow loaded the bases in the top of the first inning, and then got the next two hitters. Chuck Knoblauch was the Twins’ leadoff hitter (before he went to the Yankees he was a great player), and he spent much of the inning dancing around third base. From my vantage point in the bleachers it looked like Wakefield finally got frustrated with Knoblauch, looked at him, and waggled his head as if to say, “If you’re gonna go, then go.”

On the next pitch, Knoblauch broke for home plate, and he was tagged out at home. Side retired with no runs.

Kirby Puckett – still a great hitter, but in his last season, though no one (including him) knew it at the time – didn’t start, but he came in to pitch-hit with 2 outs in the ninth and the Red Sox leading. On – I think – the first pitch, Puckett hit a rocket to left field which was snagged by the shortstop to end the game.

Wakefield was a really fun player (“how the heck did he get that pitch anywhere near over the plate, never mind getting a called strike?”) and a class act. I’ll miss him a lot.

What a Series!

The first Red Sox/Yankees series of the year concluded, and it’s hard to imagine later series getting any better than this one!

Unless you’re, uh, a Yankees fan. Because the Red Sox swept the 3-game series at Fenway Park.

Friday’s game one was a 12-inning affair in which the Sox were down 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bay tied it with a 2-run homer, and then Kevin Youkilis hit a walk-off shot to win it. Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester pitched well to start the game, but two of the better relievers on both teams (Mariano Rivera and Hideki Okajima) imploded later on.

Saturday’s game two was epic. I’d expected the Josh Beckett-A.J. Burnett matchup to be the series’ best chance for a pitcher’s duel, but it was anything but: Beckett imploded, giving up 8 runs in 5 innings. The Sox were down 6-0 in the 4th, but closed to 6-5 in the bottom half thanks to Jason Varitek’s grand slam. Burnett also ended up giving up 8 runs in 5 innings. The bullpens provided little relief (Okajima got hit hard again), but the Yankees’ bullpen completely melted down, leading to a 16-11 Sox win, in a little under 4-1/2 hours.

Game two included such plays as Johnny Damon being picked off base, Jorge Posada getting caught in a rundown heading for home plate and tagged out at third when two runners ended up at that base, and Jacoby Ellsbury reaching base on catcher’s interference.

Sunday’s game three will be remembered for some months for Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, mainly because the Yankees had the shift on for J.D. Drew and Pettitte wasn’t really paying attention. (Video recap here.) It hardly mattered since Drew hit the next pitch for an automatic double, and the Sox won 4-1. Justin Masterson started for the Sox and pitched quite well against one of the better offenses in baseball, and then two rookie pitchers combined to shut down the Yankees the rest of the way, allowing just one hit over 3-2/3 innings. Ellsbury’s accomplishment is being overrated by fans and the media, but stealing home happens so rarely it’s quite a thing to see. Masterson was the true Sox MVP of the day.

Three hard-fought games, and the “right” team won them all (well, as far as I’m concerned!). What a great weekend of baseball!

Oh, and Sox manager Terry Francona seemed pretty happy, too:

Happy guys!

Red Sox Days

These past two evenings have been taken up with two trips to Oakland to see my Boston Red Sox in their only trip to the area this year.

Monday night we took my friend Joar and his wife Karin to their first baseball game since they moved here from Sweden a couple of years ago. We’d meant to go last year, but it never happened (mainly, I think, due to my own sloth). I don’t think either of them are really sports people, but obviously they’ve heard about the game and Joar’s seen my own enthusiasm for it on display plenty.

I explained the basics of how baseball works, which is a bigger challenge than I’d expected: What innings are, what outs are, the fielders and the batting line-up, how balls and strikes work, what foul balls and home runs are, and how outs are actually made. That doesn’t even get to things like stolen bases or double plays or pitching changes or any of that. Never mind the Seventh Inning Stretch.

All this was much easier once the game began and I could point out how the umpire indicates balls and strikes, where the foul lines are, how the runners move around the bases, etc. It really brought home how I take the play of the game for granted, having absorbed it mostly through watching a whole bunch of games as a teenager.

I think they enjoyed the game more than they’d expected, especially Karin who was watching the game quite intently as it progressed – which is saying something because it was a pretty mediocre game, as the A’s clubbed the Sox’ pitching into submission and rolled to an 8-2 victory. But we had great seats in the second deck behind home plate (and Joar nearly got his head taken off by a foul ball, but it was deflected at the last second), and it was a fairly warm night. We even saw the Red Sox pick off not one but two runners from first base in the same inning, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Next I’ll try to get them to a Giants game, hopefully for a weekend day game so they can appreciate Pac Bell Park.

Debbi and I went back last night for the second game of the series, which was considerably less fun, because the temperature was in the 40s and the wind was in the 20-30 MPH range, so it was goddamned freezing, even with the extra layers we wore. Hot cocoa and Irish coffee only staved off the chill for a few minutes.

Which is too bad because it was quite a good game: Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka melted down in the first inning (and went on the DL today), but Justin Masterson held the A’s scoreless for 4 innings, and the Sox came back to tie it 5-5. Finally we got too cold and left in the middle of the 8th, and the game was still going on by the time we got home and went to bed. I learned this morning that the A’s won 6-5 in 12 innings, so I’m rather glad we didn’t stay to the bitter end.

Of course, the Sox saved the best for today’s day game, which is a bummer, but at least they won one. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to see it.

And even more sorry they won’t be back for another visit later in the summer. Darn the unbalanced schedule anyway!

And So It Ends

The Red Sox almost did it again, having forced Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in this year’s ALCS, but it came to an end last night when the Rays beat the Sox 3-1 in the decisive game.

Ultimately, the Sox just had too many injuries to overcome: David Ortiz hasn’t been the same since he hurt his wrist, Mike Lowell went out for the year at the end of the ALDS due to his hip problems, Josh Beckett wasn’t the same for whatever reason (whether his oblique injury or something else). The Sox had – and used – a lot of depth this year, but they just didn’t have enough to cover for all of that. Despite those problems, they nearly managed to pull it out and go to their third World Series in five years, but couldn’t quite get over the hump.

The Tampa Bay Rays are young and talented, and most of their players are locked up at bargain prices for years to come, the product of years of drafting near the top of the amateur draft combined with a front office that finally knows what to do with all that talent. Reversals of fortune can happen suddenly in baseball, but as things stand the Rays could be the class of the American League for the next five years. The interesting question will be whether they can build a loyal fan base in Tampa, or whether Florida just isn’t a baseball state.

They’ll face the Phillies in the World Series starting on Wednesday. The Phillies are a pretty good team, but I think the Rays will dismantle them pretty handily. The National League’s teams just haven’t been as good as the American League’s in recent years, and I think the Rays will tee off the non-Cole Hamels pitchers in the Phils’ rotation, while Rays manager Joe Maddon will deploy his formidable bullpen to take advantage of the Phillies’ offensive weaknesses (expect to see David Price strike out Ryan Howard in close-and-late situations a couple of times).

Of course, in a short series, anything can happen, but Rays in five games looks like a good prediction.

Obviously I think Sox/Phillies would have made for a more exciting series. Not least because I could’ve traded jabs with my boss’s boss all week! 🙂

Manny Ramirez Traded

Today the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. It’s actually a 3-way trade, also involving the Pirates, which works out like this:

  1. The Red Sox trade Manny Ramirez (LF, age 36) to the Dodgers.
  2. The Pirates trade Jason Bay (LF, age 29) to the Red Sox.
  3. The Dodgers trade Andy LaRoche (3B, age 24) and Bryan Morris (SP, age 21) to the Pirates.
  4. The Red Sox also trade Craig Hansen (RP, age 24) and Brandon Moss (OF, age 24) to the Pirates.
  5. Plus the Red Sox send $7M in cash to the Dodgers to cover the rest of Manny’s 2008 salary.

Overall I think this is a good trade for the Dodgers and Pirates. For the Red Sox, I think it’s not a good trade, but I think it’s not a bad one either given their stocked farm system, financial means, and the strange circumstances of the trade itself.

I don’t have a lot to say about the Dodgers and Pirates ends of the trade: The Dodgers traded a prospect they clearly had little confidence in plus a low-level pitcher for one of the best available hitters, and they don’t even have to pay him! Assuming the Diamondbacks don’t counter with their own trade, the Dodgers could be the favorites to win the NL West now. The Pirates had a pretty barren farm system and anything their new GM can inject into it is going to help. The Pirates are a long way from contending, and while it’s fun to wonder whether they could have gotten more for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte (and they probably could have), in their position I think that’s splitting hairs. Until they acquire some impact players – probably through the draft – they’re just trying to rebuild the organization.

The deal is a very interesting one from the Red Sox’ end. Reportedly Manny has been agitating to get out of Boston, saying he’d waive his no-trade clause if the Sox would decline their options to pick up his contract for 2009 and 2010 (at $20M per year). Why has he been agitating to get out? I have no idea, and I can’t tell whether anyone else does, either. Is he fed up with Boston? With Red Sox management? Is he feuding with other players? Did he just decide he’s done what he can do in Boston and he’d feel more comfortable playing for another team? Or did he just want to have his options declined so he can try to sign one more long-term deal, which might possibly net him even more money over the length of the deal? Beats me.

But Boston has apparently been very good to Manny, both in fan support for him and in management bending over backwards to accommodate his foibles. In other towns, on other teams, Manny could have ended up as Barry Bonds of the American League, a moody, private player who runs his team the way he wants to. Instead Manny was a star on a team of stars, which won two World Series during his tenure. If he caught some flak for “Manny being Manny” from time to time, I know the memories I have of him tend to involve him hitting home runs, or running on the field with a big smile on his face. Manny’s antics – such as they were – don’t come close to stacking up against those of Bill Lee, or Wade Boggs, or Ted Williams.

Assuming Manny was the driving force behind the trade, I think it’s to the Red Sox’ credit that they worked to accommodate his departure as well as they did his presence, trading him to a contending team in a deal which isn’t truly to their benefit, as they traded two prospects and cash along with him in order to get a player who’s younger, and maybe as good, but that’s hardly guaranteed.

Jason Bay is a good player, he hits a ton and seems to have a decent defensive reputation (Manny was not a good fielder). He’s also a lot cheaper, being signed for $7.5M next year, and of course he’s 7 years younger. In 2008, he might be as valuable as Manny. We’ll see. In 2009, he could provide similar value for a lot less money, which means the Sox will be players in the free agent market this off-season, not to mention having some money to throw around to help acquire players in trade.

And who did the Sox give up? Hansen is starting to look more suspect than prospect, and relief pitchers tend to be fungible anyway. Moss is a bit more of a loss, although he’s not looking like a star in the making.

Overall, I think this deal is a lose for the Red Sox, but not a large one. It’s too bad to see Manny head out this way, but in a way it seems fitting given his sometimes-baffling tenure with the team. Bay should be a solid addition for the next year-plus, and ought to help us win this year. The big win for the Sox is that Manny’s intermittent injuries are now the Dodgers’ problem, and they don’t have to figure out what to do when he gets hurt, since they don’t have a DH slot to place him in. Bay isn’t an iron man, but he’s also not 36 years old; I expect Manny to get more fragile over the next couple of years.

I’d have been happy to have kept Manny for this year, though. He’s still an asset, and one more run at the brass ring with this Red Sox team would have been fun to watch. Ah, well. I hope playing for the Dodgers gives him what he’s looking for, whatever that is.

A Tale of Two Weekends

The days have been just flying by, lately! I realized this weekend that I never wrote an entry about last weekend, partly because I’d been busy catching up on posting photos from my Dad’s visit!

The bittersweet part of last weekend was going to two Red Sox/Athletics games, which I’d been excited about since this is a rare year in which my Red Sox visited Oakland twice in the same season. Unfortunately, we ended up seeing two games of a three-game sweep by the A’s, with the Sox losing 8-3 on Friday, and then 3-0 on Saturday. The Saturday game was almost very exciting as Justin Duchscherer came two baserunners away from pitching a perfect game. But he hit Jason Varitek leading off the 6th, and David Ortiz singled in the 7th. Huston Street replaced Duchscherer for the 9th, and that was it. Bummer. On television we watched the A’s finish the sweep by winning 6-3 on Sunday. Alas.

On the bright side, the Sox have gone 4-2 since then, and they still have the second-best record in the American League (behind the Rays, who seem to finally be capitalizing on their substantial talent base).

Sunday we also had Subrata and Susan over for the day. We hadn’t heard from them for a few days and we’d figured they might be going stir crazy waiting for their child to arrive. (As I wrote over this past weekend, he arrived last Thursday.) We met at The Counter for lunch and then came back and played Magic (Subrata and me) and dominoes (all four of us) for the afternoon, winding up having dinner at Marie Callender’s.

The Magic session was interesting, my second time really playing Shadowmoor. We played a sealed deck game. Subrata had two viable builds from his cards, while I thought I had three or even four, but part-way through one game I realized I just didn’t have the right mix of stuff to make a white-blue deck work; it kept wanting to be write-green. So I did that instead and it worked quite well, better than the black-red deck did. The red-green version might have worked, too, but I didn’t try that. Anyway, it does feel like Shadowmoor is a slower format than Lorwyn or Time Spiral were. But since I enjoy creature-based decks, that’s not really a bad thing.

This weekend as I said we went to the hospital to visit Subrata, Susan and Ajay on Friday evening. Saturday we went out and did some shopping, including buying a new cat bush (half-height cat tree) for the downstairs. Even though it’s nearly identical to the old one, the cats still had to sniff it all over. But it seems to have passed muster!

I also went by a sale at Illusive Comics, an area store which I hadn’t visited before. (Well, I might have visited them years ago under their previous incarnation and previous owners, but I honestly don’t remember.) The owners are very enthusiastic, which is a great thing in anyone doing small retail! I’ll probably go back every so often, even though my I already have a regular shop I patronize (Comics Conspiracy). As most stores today do, Illusive seems to be focusing on new books and paperback collections. Unfortunately I’m an outlier among comics fans: the main thing that brings me back to a shop is a good and constantly-changing back issue selection, and the comics retailing biz has moved away from back issues over the last 15 years. And every store has pretty much the same set of paperback collections, so you don’t really need to go to multiple stores for those.

Anyway. Comics retailing is hard enough without listening to me moan about how comics shops aren’t like they were back when I was a teenager, so enough about that.

We spent a good chunk of Saturday doing chores around the house: We did a whole bunch of long-awaited cleaning, throwing away the little things which stack up on bookshelves and in the garage and in nooks and crannies elsewhere. I put up a bike hanger so we could reclaim some floor space by hanging Debbi’s bike above mine. Now Debbi wants to hang the step ladder and our spare folding chairs, so that may be another project soon! Debbi fixed up the shadowbox with my old Mardi Gras beads and coins, and it looks great!

Sunday we had a quieter day. I spent a lot of the afternoon and evening up in the study paying bills, putting together some Magic decks, and doing some cleaning up (though not nearly enough). We also cooked dinner and watched Sunday night baseball.

So that about covers it. We have some more projects to take care of around the house (for instance, replace the long-broken kitchen dispose-all), and I hope we can get a bunch of it taken care of this summer. It ought to keep us busy!

Meanwhile, happy June, everyone!

Real, Live Baseball

So a month or so ago I bought some tickets to some baseball games, including to today’s Red Sox vs. A’s game, which was supposed to start at 7:35. But, uh, a few weeks later I received a phone call and a postcard informing me that the game had been moved to a 12:35 start time. You’ll notice that today is a Wednesday. Gah. To be fair, the time was moved so the Sox could fly back to the east coast before midnight. Fair enough. Fortunately, both Debbi and I were able to take the day off to go to the game. Whew! I only went to one ballgame all last year, and I want to make a better showing this year.

Debbi pointed out that we might have better luck parking at the Millbrae BART station with its huge parking garage than in the east bay, plus afterwards we could go to the excellent Brother’s Deli for dinner. Sold! So we drove up and caught BART to the Coliseum. Along the way we met a fellow who was in from Boston and was going to catch the game himself. Nice guy, we chatted about the Sox and gave him some advice on getting a ticket (which mostly consisted of “where the good seats are” and “where the ticket office is”).

We got there in plenty of time and found our seats in the second deck basically right behind home plate. In fact, we had a view like this:

Hazy Morning
It was a light and cloudy morning…

I do enjoy my ballpark food, but along with rising ticket prices, park food is getting more expensive, too. The Coliseum features Round Table Pizza, which I enjoy pretty well for chain pizza, but their pizzas seem to be getting smaller even as they get more expensive. So I may be switching to sausages soon.

The A’s are in a rebuilding period now, having traded Dan Haren and Nick Swisher in the off-season, so they’re not going to be very good (although not as bad as the Giants). Consequently, the stadium attendance resembled 1999, when I first moved here, when Red Sox fans seemed to outnumber A’s fans. Here’s a sample. Keep in mind that the Sox’ colors are red and dark blue, while the A’s colors are green and gold:

The colors of baseball fandom
Sox fans are red, Sox fans are blue…

The game got under way just a couple of minutes late, and it was a pretty exciting game! Jon Lester – cancer survivor and World Series hero – pitched for the Sox, while the great but oft-injured Rich Harden pitched for the A’s. The Sox kept collecting baserunners, but just couldn’t bring them across the plate, and at the end of the 6th inning the game was still scoreless. (The ump’s strike zone seemed to be ridiculously wide, which had something to do with it.)

But Harden had been pulled at the start of the 6th, and the top of the 7th began with Kevin Youkilis rapping out a double (quite a heads-up play as he was running all the way and just barely beat the throw), and David Ortiz followed with a home run to right field. The Sox added 2 more in the 8th off 5 consecutive singles (4 to shallow left field), and Jason Varitek capped the scoring with a home run in the 9th. Meanwhile Lester cruised through 6-2/3 innings, and two relievers closed out the game, as the Red Sox held the A’s to 4 hits and shut them out 5-0.

The forecast was for rain today, but we never got more than a light drizzle – hardly even noticeable – and it was cool and pleasant. It also turned out to be “foul ball day” as dozens of the things peppered the infield stands, including this one which came right back at us as I was taking this photo, landing a few rows in front of us:

Low bridge!
Low bridge!

We were also amused that whenever the A’s brought in a reliever, the infielders and outfielders would each gather and stand around chatting. I guess they were just killing some dead time like anyone does, but I rarely see it happen so regularly.

Pitching critics
“Do you think that curveball makes his butt look big?”

That photo’s also great because of the Sox baserunner in the background working out a problem with his laces during the dead time.

All-in-all a great day at the park, and the Sox are now 3-1 on the season. We headed out to BART and took the train back to our car, looking forward to our dinner plans… only to find that Brother’s Deli closed sometime late last year! What a bummer! They’d moved from Burlingame a few years ago and although their new digs were nicer, they seemed to have a lot of trouble attracting customers, and I guess it caught up to them. Parking around downtown Millbrae could be a challenge sometimes, too. Alas, I’ll need to find somewhere new to order meat blintzes. I’m going to miss them.

Hard to believe that our bonus day off is over already! Back to work tomorrow. Fortunately it’s only for a 2-day week…!