Dateline: Running Cedar
On a very hot, humid evening, the Red Sox started the ’04 playoffs against the Yankees. The Yankees by virtue of losing a tie breaker to the Devil Rays ended up in second place. The Sox ended up in third place with a 9-3-1 record. The game pitted a ten win team against a nine win team in the first round. Tickets were selling very briskly as fans settled in for another battle between the two clubs. They were not to be disappointed.
Jared led off with a walk and Garrett singled. Matt popped out, but Chris was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Michael hit a huge RBI single to score Jared. William hit a big single to score Garrett. The Sox had a 2-0 lead when the dust cleared. Garrett took the mound and had a fantastic outing. He walked the first batter. The next batter hit a shot to Michael at short. He scooped it up, set his feet and flipped to TJ at second. It was a perfect play and the Yankees realized they were playing a tough defensive team. The next batter popped up to Garrett for out two. Garrett struck out the next batter and the Sox had a 2-0 lead after one.
In the second the Sox added to their lead. Ben, Jack and Jared walked. Matt singled to score Ben. Chris walked to score Jack. With the bases loaded Michael picked up another bit RBI with another single. And again, William singled for his second hit of the day to score Chris. It was now 6-0 Sox. Garrett took the mound and hit the first batter. The next batter popped up and Garrett made a nice play on the ball. A single moved to the runner to second. The next batter hit a shot to right to score a run. A strikeout made for two outs.
The next batter singled and the ball was thrown to Garrett on the mound. The runner rounded third and headed for home. Garrett came after the runner and the runner turned to head back to third. As the runner turned, he made a wide turn into the infield grass. A bad throw resulted in what looked like a run for the Yankees, but alas the umpire called the runner out for running outside of the baseline. The Yankees coaching staff was incensed. They asked that the umpire check with the rulebook.
Happily Coach Grossman had one quite handy — he is known for having a handy rule book when he is pretty sure the rules are on his side. Coach Grossman said little as he handed the book to the umpire. The relevant rule was checked. It states (and we are giving the general gist as we do not have the book with us at this writing) “a runner is out if, when avoiding a tag the runner deviates more than three feet from the imaginary line that runs directly between the bases”. The Yankees coach argued that the runner was merely turning around long after he had avoided the tag and was not in fact in the process of avoiding any aforementioned “tag”. The judgment hinged on precisely what is involved in avoiding a tag. The umpire ruled that since Garrett had the ball and was contemplating tagging the runner before the runner changed direction that the act of changing direction was indeed a case of avoiding a tag. This reporter believes the umpire was absolutely correct in his decision and this reporter would believe this even if he was not a big time Red Sox fan. The Yankees manager agreed it was a judgment call and the runner was declared out. When the dust had settled, two runs had scored and it was a 6-2 ballgame.
The Red Sox made some nice contact in the third inning, but the Yankees defense was tough and no runs scored. Ben came on and pitched an outstanding third inning. He struck out two and got one batter to weakly ground out to William at second base. After three it was still 6-2 Red Sox.
The Red Sox added two runs in the fourth. A walk to Jack and a single by Matt and a big single by Chris scored Matt and Jack. Michael single and Chris moved to third. On a wild pitch, Coach Grossman sent Chris and the Yankees tagged him out at home. Red Sox fans wondered aloud how many times Coach Grossman has to get runners nailed at home before a permanent record is placed in his coaching file. Matt came on and was unhittable. He struck out three and quietly set down the heart of the Yankees order. After four it was 8-2 Red Sox.
The Red Sox continued to make good contact in the fifth with three groundouts in a row. Matt again struck out three and the Red Sox were three outs away from the semifinal game. They added an insurance run in the sixth on a single by Justin, a walk to Ben and a single by Garrett to score Ben. Matt took the mound with a commanding seven run lead. He struck out the first batter and walked a batter and hit a batter. With runners on first and second and the Yankees starting to think rally, Matt calmly struck out the next two batter to end the game and send the Red Sox to the next round.
Coach Grossman said “I am so proud of this team. This was the best we have ever played defensively. Our guys were in ready position for every pitch of the game. We looked sharp and we got some phenomenal pitching. We only walked two batters all game and struck out 12. So that means we made six big outs in the field.” This reporter asked Coach Grossman what he was thinking when he sent Chris home from third. “Honestly, I get so tired of you reporters. Here we are trying to celebrate and you guys always have to nit pick everything. Lets just say its been a great season and I’m looking forward to our next game. “
Coach Goldstein said “Even though we were up, the game could have gone either way. I saw a lot of heads up play out there. The kids are really thinking ahead now as to where they will throw the ball. I, too, am very proud of them”.