If you’re of a certain age, a Red Sox-Yankees game was always a little like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner.
If you remember, the not-so-wily coyote was forever outsmarted by that infernal cuckoo bird. If the coyote zigged, the Roadrunner zagged. The coyote was always at the ready to outwit the bird with the latest super-weapon produced by the Acme Corp. But the bird was always one step ahead of him. And most of the time, the sticks of dynamite, or the bowling ball-shaped bomb, ended up exploding and blowing up ol’ Wile E.
The bird took on different characteristics, from Bucky Dent to Aaron Boone to Mark Teixeira, to any one of a thousand others. Often, the bird was imbedded within our ranks, such as when Grady Little left Pedro in to start the eighth inning of Game 7 in 2003 when he was clearly spent (for a reason we know only too well: he was afraid to go to the bullpen). Or when Don Zimmer pitched a terrified rookie (Bobby Sprowl) in one of those “Boston Massacre” games 40 years ago.
The one time the coyote managed to catch the bird, 2004, was almost a fluke. A series of improbable things happened over the last four games: two blown saves by Mariano Rivera, a ground-rule double that would have scored the winning run in one game if it had stayed in the park, two calls in Game 6 that were overturned — and in an era before replay; and the Game 7 beat down.
Even after ’04, the Yankees made a habit of raining on our parade. The night when the Red Sox clinched the AL East (which came about after the Baltimore Orioles had already beaten the Toronto Blue Jays that evening) two years ago was punctuated by a very frustrating blown save by Craig Kimbrel and Teixeira’s grand slam in the bottom of the ninth off Joe Kelly.
I remember a game long, long ago that the Sox had won — the third out was made — except a Yankee Stadium fan ran onto the field and negated the play because the umpire called time. Given the second chance, the batter singled in the tying run and the Yankees won.
From 1920, probably, right up until last week, if the Yankees got the tying or winning runs on base, they scored. Bizarrely if possible. In a 12-year career, Dent had 40 homers (averaging out to four a year). One of them, naturally, came at a pivotal — almost iconic — time in that 1978 playoff game. Boone was a little better — averaging 18 a season — but still, no big power threat. Until he faced Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
In 2004, some kind of weird force took over and guided the Sox to the pennant. Otherwise, the Yankees, like the Roadrunner, were always looking back as Wile E. Coyote seethed in frustration, the remnants of his latest plan-gone-bust having exploded all over him.
What happened in the last week seems more like a conventional — even methodical — beating. Sure, the Red Sox lost a game because David Price turned into David Price. But otherwise, this was a total victory. The bullpen may be shaky, but it hung on in two of the three wins. In a five-game series, it’s important to get the early jump so you can line up your pitching as the game progresses. The Sox broke out to significant leads early in all three wins. Maybe they had to hang on, but hang on they did. Game 1 last Friday followed the same pattern, almost, as Game 7 in 2003. The Sox got the early lead and the Yankees kept creeping up. The only difference is the Red Sox held the fort this time.
Often, when the Red Sox lost, it was the umpire’s fault, such as when umpire Rick Reed called Jose Offerman out in 1999 when Chuck Knoblauch didn’t come close to tagging him on an eventual double play call.
Tuesday, it was C.C. Sabathia taking his cue from all the grousing about Angel Hernandez from the night before to blame him for his terrible pitching (props to Rick Porcello for basically telling him to shut up).
We’ve always ended up having to explain managerial gaffes while the likes of Joe Torre or Billy Martin ended up smiling smugly in the other dugout. This time, it was our own Alex Cora badly out-managing Boone. Alex had the Midas touch. Boone had the Midas touch in reverse.
The Red Sox have always had to explain away a star’s poor performance — Ted Williams hitting .100 in 1946 or Nomar Garciaparra’s mysterious slump in 2003.
This time it was Giancarlo Stanton who drew the collar. I’ve never seen such an uncompetitive at-bat as the one he had in the ninth inning Tuesday. Kimbrel couldn’t locate the plate with a GPS, but somehow Stanton managed to strike out.
Down is up, in is out, east is west, north is south, and Wile E. Coyote won! Enjoy it. It might not happen again anytime soon.