BOSTON -- What a great scene Friday night!
For the first time in what area residents say seemed like weeks, the sun came out late Friday afternoon in Boston as people gathered outside Fenway Park before the Cubs and Red Sox were to meet. The atmosphere was festive; Red Sox fans greeted Cubs fans like they were long-lost family.
Crowds of media spoke to players and management on the field during batting practice as fans gathered along the first row of seats to ask for autographs and take photos of this historic matchup. It was almost a playoff atmosphere, and smiles could be seen everywhere on the faces of Cubs fans, many of whom were seeing the nearly 100-year-old Fenway Park for the first time.
And then the game started.
The Red Sox demolished the Cubs 15-5 Friday night and the embarrassing part was... well, just about everything. The Cubs got 12 hits, a pair of walks, a hit batsman and five runs off Jon Lester, one of the best lefties in the American League. When you do that, you really ought to win the game.
Unfortunately, Cubs pitchers and fielders were not cooperating with that scenario. Doug Davis got hit early and often, finally having to be taken out with two out in the fourth inning having allowed eight hits and three walks. It might not have been quite as bad, except Scott Maine threw only four pitches before Kevin Youkilis hit what became the first of a pair of Red Sox home runs. You'd have also thought the Cubs might have thought about walking Adrian Gonzalez, who batted before Youkilis. At the time the score was still a manageable 4-2 and with runners on second and third with two out, you simply don't let the opposition's best hitter beat you.
Gonzalez hit a 3-2 pitch for a two-run single and four more batters reached before Maine was able to end the inning. Even after that, the Cubs managed to pile up three runs off Lester and make the game "close" again at 8-5 in the top of the fifth.
Maine took care of that by giving up a home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia that somehow wound up in the hands of Cubs team president Crane Kenney (who gave it to a kid) after it nearly cleared the large Volvo sign closest to center field over the Green Monster seats.
As if that weren't enough, Jeff Samardzija, who has been pretty good this year, was awful last night, facing 10 batters in an inning that seemed to take about an hour. Five runs scored on four hits, a pair of walks and Starlin Castro's second error of the night. Castro had a really, really bad game; in addition to the errors, both of which came on what appeared to be routine ground balls, he went 0-for-5, striking out twice.
Many of us criticized Mike Quade's decision to put Alfonso Soriano in left field; Soriano had played many times at Fenway as a Yankee and Ranger, but never in the outfield. He did make one error, swiping at a base hit by Saltalamacchia, who wound up on second base, but that inning was one of the few that had no damage. The choice to put Soriano in the outfield was ridiculous -- the right decision should have put Reed Johnson in left, Jeff Baker in right, Aramis Ramirez at third base and Soriano at DH -- but that was the least of the problems Friday night. About the only thing that went right was James Russell throwing three scoreless relief innings.
Fenway Park, though, was everything I'd expected it to be. The last time I set foot in Fenway was August 14, 1983 -- long before Fenway became the everyday-sellout home of a perennial playoff contender, and before multiple renovations made it old, but somehow fresh and new. They close off some of the streets outside the park before the game; this TwitPic I sent yesterday afternoon should give you an idea of the festive atmosphere, something the Cubs want to duplicate when (if?) they ever get their Triangle Building constructed on Clark Street. The park itself has been freshened up with many coats of paint and lots of premium seating that's been constructed above the main level; Fenway doesn't have a true "upper deck" -- in fact, had no seating above the main level at all before the extensive renovations and expansions began in the 1990s.
Sightlines from my seat, about 30 rows off the field behind third base, were pretty good; a post blocked my view of the third baseman, meaning I missed the nice stab Youkilis made on a Darwin Barney line drive in the sixth inning. But everything else was easy to see... except when people in my row got up and down for beer (and it was all beer they were bringing back; didn't really see anyone bring any food back). There are no beer vendors at Fenway; if you want it, you've got to go get it yourself. And the problem with this, at least in the grandstand area I was sitting in, is: the seats are really, really small. And the legroom is almost nonexistent. So if you're seated near people who drink even moderate amounts of beer, you are constantly going to be getting up and down. And if you're sitting behind people like that, you're going to miss some action while the people in the row in front of you have to let people by. It's kind of like seeing a wave go by, only longer. (And the people at Fenway did the actual wave too, unfortunately.)
Given the difficulty of getting in and out of the seats and the distance my seat was from a concession stand, I did not sample any of the Fenway food, having had a fairly large lunch earlier in the day at a place in Harvard Square in Cambridge whose name now escapes me. I'll try to sample some Fenway food options tonight.
When, presumably, the Cubs will have gotten rid of the holes in their gloves and replace the 84 MPH fastballs of Doug Davis with the (hopefully) better repertoire of Carlos Zambrano. If you're going to lose a game, at least lose the one where your No. 7 starting pitcher is going.
Red Sox fans were great, friendly and welcoming, just as they were in 2005 when many visited Wrigley Field for an interleague series. I'm guessing the big win helped that attitude. This season's been crazy enough, the Cubs could just return that favor tonight. But Mike Quade? Please, enough of Soriano in left field, at least during interleague games at AL parks. There was no reason to do it; the choice, as noted, had no bearing on the result of the game... but don't tempt fate again.