I'm writing this after the World Series has ended, but I'm splitting it up into two posts, because there's just so much here to process. First, let's start with the League Championship Series. While the Red Sox were dispatching the defending champion Astros in five games thanks to some amazing outfield play (saving Craig Kimbrel from multiple implosions), I was silently rooting for the Dodgers. Not because I have anything for the Dodgers or anything against the Brewers, but because if the Sox played the Dodgers in the World Series, then I'd consider taking Zachary to a game.
This season was Zachary's breakout baseball season. He followed the Red Sox season intensely. Every night at bedtime in the beginning of the season (the Red Sox started out 17-2, remember), he'd ask me if the Red Sox won, how many wins they now had, and how many wins other teams had because he was really enjoying the Red Sox leading the league in games won. When the Yankees caught up to the Red Sox for a little while mid-season, he got nervous. And he started checking the scores on his own. His Kindle Fire took the place of my childhood's newspaper and box score (and SportsCenter), and he'd turn it on most mornings to check the scores and watch the highlights. Soon he was informing me what happened in the baseball world at the end of each day.
So for the Red Sox to win 108 games -- the most in their history -- and make it to the World Series in his first year really following the team was just all too good to be true. We're honestly a little worried about his baseball fandom now, as how spoiled can you possibly get? But I digress.
The Dodgers won the National League, and looking at the schedule for the World Series games, the Los Angeles games would be on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Can't ask for anything more. I still didn't say anything to anyone, not wanting to get anyone's hopes up, and also not really wanting to go all the way down there if the Sox were in a big hole in the Series. So we watched.
The Sox took a 2 games to none lead in Boston, and then they were off to L.A. Game 3 will go down in history. A friend of mine was at the game. He had actually texted me a few days before thinking that he might have an extra ticket, but I told him I'd need TWO extra tickets, because I wasn't going to see the Red Sox in the World Series without Zachary. He did not have two extra tickets. So Zachary (and Avery and Ariel and Grandma Jessie) watched Game 3 on the couch. Or, at least, we watched a lot of baseball, but I was the only one who stayed up until 1am to watch all 18 innings. Around the 10th inning or so, I asked Zachary if he wanted to go to Game 4 with me. That was a silly question! Of course! He was so excited. And then he stayed up about three hours past his bedtime, only to not get to see the end of the game, because it would just never end. All throughout the last few extra innings, I was online finding tickets and a hotel. Flights were booked, so we'd be driving, which was fine with me, because it gave us more flexibility in when we left. You know, just in case we wanted to delay our departure.
The Sox lost that 18-inning, longest-postseason-game-ever game, so they were up 2-1 going into Game 4. Tickets were not cheap, as Dodger fans now had some hope. We got up on Saturday morning, packed our stuff, ball and gloves, etc., and hit the road. Zachary brought a bunch of Red Sox books, but we don't do tablets in the car, so we passed the time listening to MLB Radio and episodes of The Sporkful Podcast. I wanted to get there early in case there was going to be any batting practice, so we went straight to Dodger Stadium, not stopping at the hotel.
I also brought an old authentic MLB baseball that I had in a box in the garage, and a pen, in case Zachary got a chance to try to get an autograph. He was pretty shy about it at first, but I gave him some instructions on how to go up to the wall, how to ask, how to be aggressive yet polite with the folks around him, and he did it! That's relief pitcher Hector Velazquez's signature on that baseball.
Oh, that last picture just above, that was the first of many times a friendly stranger offered to take our picture.
The Red Sox did not end up taking batting practice (not surprising, given they played for nearly seven and a half hours last night / this morning). So we hung out in our seats for a while, waiting for the game to start. We had a couple of Red Sox fans next to us, but were mostly surrounded by Dodger fans.
After Dennis Eckersley threw out the first pitch to Kirk Gibson in honor of the famous '88 home run, the game started the way Game 3 ended, with very little offense. Eduardo Rodriguez was throwing great for the Red Sox. Until the 6th inning. A hit batter and a double put two Dodgers in scoring position with one out, and an intentional walk loaded the bases. But then a grounder to first -- can we turn two? Nope. Out at the plate, but the throw back to first for the double play went into right field, and we were crestfallen. Had we driven all this way to see the Red Sox still not be able to score a run, and give the game away on an error? With the Dodgers up 1-0 and two runners on with two outs, Yasiel Puig stepped to the plate. On a 3-1 pitch, he crushed it deep into the left field bleachers. Zachary has been watching enough baseball to know when a ball is on its way out, so he didn't even watch the full flight of the ball. He just buried his head in my shoulder and cried, the intense crowd roar confirming for him his worst fear. 4-0 Dodgers in the 6th. Baseball-Reference.com's "win probability" gave the Red Sox a 5% chance of winning the game following that home run. Little did we know, the rest of the weekend would be perfect.
But these are not your grandfather's Red Sox, Zachary. These are not your daddy's childhood Red Sox either. These Red Sox find a way. Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt walked, and then Mitch Moreland hit a three-run home run to right field that sent the Red Sox fans dancing. 4-3 game. After the Dodgers went pretty quietly in the bottom of the 7th, they brought in their closer Kenley Jansen for the 8th. Jansen is not used to pitching in the 8th, and had thrown in the marathon game yesterday. Maybe he'd be tired?
Steve Pearce. Solo home run. Tie game. Dancing, ecstatic Red Sox fans. We're back in it.
Joe Kelly escapes the eighth inning with his second scoreless inning, stranding a runner on third. And the Red Sox's offense just exploded in the top of the 9th. Five runs on five hits, including a bases clearing three-run double by Steve Pearce, that had both of us jumping out and down and screaming like mad men.
What a game. No offense for six innings, down 4-0, a 5% chance of winning the game, and then the comeback. Nine runs in the last three innings. And now a 3-1 Series lead.
Time to head to the hotel and get some sleep. Zachary wants to be sure we get on the road in the morning to get home in time to watch Game 5 on TV. Daddy has other ideas, though.