Next time someone tells you baseball is a boring game, have them watch a replay of last night's contest between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park.
For sheer thrills, comebacks, twists and turns that keep you guessing at the outcome as if you were reading a great mystery novel , and one of the most unbelievable catches you'll ever see, this one was the antithesis of dull.
And the game had more than a tinge of weird to it. Chris Sale, arguably the best pitcher in the American League this season, leading the league in strike-outs, started for Boston and by the second inning had given up five runs, proving at least that he's human. The Indians had a pretty good starter of their own on the hill in Carlos Carrasco, and you figured with a five run lead, it just wasn't Boston's night. But the Red Sox chased Carrasco from the game in the bottom of the second, scoring five runs of their own including a 3-run bomb by Mitch Moreland, who would figure much later in the game's outcome in a most unusual way.
Sale stayed in the game and kept things tied until the fifth when Edward Encarnacion took him deep for a two out, two-run homer and Cleveland was up 7-5. It looked like the Red Sox had cut the lead to one in the bottom half when Hanley Ramirez led off with a towering shot to right center field, headed for the Red Sox bullpen near the triangle. Cleveland's Austin Jackson tracked the ball, leaped and grabbed it as it was sailing over the waist-high wall, but his body momentum took him head over heels and into the bullpen. Did he hold onto the ball? Yes, he did, and an astonished Hanley Ramriez could only look bafflingly at the umpires, who watched it on replay and confirmed the out. The Fenway Faithful even showered Jackson with a standing ovation for the remarkable catch, which deserves to be seen again and again. Have a look. Or a few:
So the game remained 7-5 Cleveland until the bottom of the sixth when the Red Sox closed the gap to 7-6 and then loaded the bases for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's been a great pick up and will see more playing time now that Dustin Pedroia has been placed on the 10-day DL with a sore knee. Nunez would stay in the line-up anyway because he's been nothing but clutch for Boston and was again last night, launching a bases clearing 3-run double high off the Monster to put the Red Sox up 9-7.
But fortunes changed again. Cleveland got one back in the 8th, with the newly arrived reliever Addison Reed giving up a solo home run to Carlos Santana to lead off the inning. Reed steadied after that and it was on to the 9th with all-star closer Craig Kimbrel ready to nail it down for Boston. But Francisco Lindor had other ideas and launched a solo bomb off Kimbrel on an 0-2 count that tied the game at nine.
It would get worse for Kimbrel as he threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded that put Cleveland ahead 10-9 heading into the bottom of the ninth with their closer Cody Allen coming on to finally end the see-saw contest. Allen allowed one runner but had two outs and got Mitch Moreland to swing at strike three to end any comeback hopes. But remember when I said Moreland would factor in the outcome in an unusual way? Well, that strike three got away from the catcher and Moreland reached first on the strikeout.
So with two on and two out and the Sox down a run Christian Vazquez put an exclamation point on the game of the year by sending a moon shot to center field for a 3-run homer and a 12-10 Red Sox win. As crazy, as thrilling, as beautiful a ball game as any fan, and even I suspect, non-fan, could ask for.
And hey, the gravy on that turkey is that the win lifted the Red Sox a half game ahead of the NY Yankees for first place in the A.L. east because the Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers 4-3 at the Stadium. John Hicks had a three run homer for Detroit but the real story was the close-down performance by reliever Shane Greene, thrust into the closer's role after the Tigers traded Justin Wilson to the Cubs. No pressure for your first attempt at closing, right? Trying to preserve a one run lead against the Yankees in the Bronx? Well, Greene did the job, ending a threat in the 8th when he induced Matt Holliday into a double play, and then stranding the tying run at third in the 9th by getting Clint Frazier on a pop up.
The best player no one talks about except in Colorado is Nolan Arenado, who hit a three run blast against the NY Mets in the sixth inning in Denver last night, then got the walk off, game winning single in the bottom of the 9th for a 5-4 Rockies win. That walk off was made possible by the second best catch of the night, when Charlie Blackmon robbed Asbrudal Cabrera of extra bases in the top of the 9th, making a leaping catch as he crashed into the center field wall to keep the game tied so Arenado could end it.
In Chicago, Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak homered to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to an 8-4 win over the White Sox. There was a bench clearing but no punches thrown when Marcuis Stroman and Tim Anderson got into a shouting match after Anderson struck out in the seventh.
The Tri City Valley Cats shut out the Vermont Lake Monsters for a second straight game, winning 5-0 in Troy, New York last night.
In the NECBL the Plymouth Pilgrims cooled off the Upper Valley Nighthawks with a 9-3 win, and the Vermont Mountaineers beat the Winnipesaukee Muskrats 4-1 in Montpelier, with five pitchers combining to hold the Muskrats to five hits and one run and the Mountaineers scoring three in the seventh for the winning margin in the team's final game of the season.