Justin Masterson was called up from Double-A Portland to pitch an emergency start against the Anaheim Angels. It was his major league debut. Unfortunately, his six innings of work, in which the Angels could only manage two hits, was ruined by an implosion in the bullpen. As it turns out, so was my enjoyment of the game.
You see, yesterday was one of those rare weekday afternoon games. The kind of thing where you scratch your head and wonder what genius would schedule a game not only when most adults are working but also when most kids are in school. Seriously, who was supposed to be able to watch that game? I set my DVR to record it and figured I’d start watching it once I got home. I told my colleagues in the office, in an attempt to keep someone from blowing the ending for me (as someone there had done during the first game of the season). It was pretty dead around there anyhow, so I was able to escape around 4:30 without even the slightest idea of how things were going. I put on my headphones, turned on my trusty iPod, and walked downstairs to where the shuttle service picks us up and deposits us at the T station in Harvard Square, Cambridge. But the driver, who shall remain nameless, just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I figured that the game might be on the van’s radio; that’s why I had the iPod cranked up. But the guy just couldn’t resist telling me what was going on, despite my pleas that I was taping the game to watch when I got home. Seriously, no sooner did I say something along the lines of “Please don’t tell me, I’m going to start it when I get home” did he blurt out, “THEY’RE LOSING! Down by three!! In the ninth!” And it’s like, thank you, thank you for that.
Seriously, it’s not just about winning or losing. Had I not had the game spoiled for me, I would have enjoyed watching Masterson’s six great innings. I would have been dismayed at the damage the bullpen did, but I would have still had the experience of enjoying the game. Win or lose, it’s still fun to watch assuming it’s well-played, and most of the time it is. But once you know the outcome, win or lose, it becomes so much harder to watch. At least for me. I have no more interest in watching a game they win if the outcome’s been spoiled than I do a game that they lose. It’s not about the score, it’s about the game. And it was blown for me.
When I got home, I turned on the DVR and fast forwarded through to the bottom of the ninth. At least I could watch the Sox’ final turn at bat not knowing the outcome. But even with David Ortiz hitting a two run homer to bring the team within striking distance, it was hard to muster much enthusiasm. Not when I had been deprived of the fun of watching it all.
What part of “Please don’t tell me, I’m going to watch it when I get home” was unclear? I’m dying to know so I can phrase it better next time.
Remind me not to marvel at how the team seems to win against all odds. That seemed to kill it. Still, as far as I can remember, the six game winning streak the Sox had going until last night was longer than any they had during the regular season in all of 2007. Last year’s team was the anti-streak. They were a model of consistency, never getting too hot, but never getting too cold either. After a brilliant start, they actually spent most of the season playing what seemed like win-one-lose-one ball. So at the least, this has been better to watch.
As soon as I found out Jon Lester would be making an emergency start on three days rest (a first for him) in place of Dice-K (flu-like symptoms), I was worried. I’ve never been, as a rule, impressed with Lester, though I see potential for him to be a lot better. For a guy that nibbles incessantly at the plate and walks a plethora of hitters, starting on three days rest seemed like an awful idea. I guess there was no other option, but still. Before the game started, I predicted Lester would go four innings and give up four runs. OK, so he went five innings, giving up four. He wasn’t dreadful, and while his first couple innings were spotty, he really seemed to turn it around as the game went on. He gave the club a chance to win, which is really all they could have asked for.
And props to my fellow Long Island native, Craig Hansen, pitching in the bigs for the first time since 2006. Sure, you could focus on the Glen Cove-raised Hansen giving up the decisive run, but I think that’s missing the point. In 2006, he didn’t look all that good on the mound, and in 2007 he was more or less dreadful at the AAA level. Last night he looked very good. Made a mistake with that one pitch and paid for it, but what I saw last night out of him was better than anything I saw in 2006. He’s already been optioned back to Pawtucket, but it looks like there may be an opportunity for him to help this club in a big way later in the season. I much prefer to see the homegrown talent over free agent signings and trades, so if this kid can continue to turn it around, it would be great for the team.
So, in the end, a team missing Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Alex Cora, Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Manny Delcarmen was able to keep it a close game ’til the end. That they didn’t embarrass themselves was already a pretty good thing in my eyes. That they kept themselves in it against a very good Angels ballclub really says something. They didn’t come back this time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.
Justin Masterson, one of the top prospects in the organization, is temporarily being bumped up from Double-A ball to start this afternoon (Lester’s originally scheduled start). Trying to decide if I should just follow the highlights on the internet or radio, or wait until I get home to watch it on DVR. Guess we’ll just see how busy work gets in the next couple hours. I honestly wouldn’t mind waiting and checking it out later. It’s the guy’s first major league start. Call me sentimental, but that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing.