Red Sox Nation Going Down in Flames

The first half of this Rays–Red Sox series at Tropicana Field could not have gone much better for our home team.  13–0 and 6–2 wins are always great ways to kick off rivalry series.  Especially when it is the first time in 18 days that they have won consecutive games.

Matt Garza was at possibly his best ever, right up there with that start in Miami last season, throwing six perfect innings as his team hammered Josh Beckett.  One infield hit by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to David Ortiz was all Boston had against Garza.  The Rays piled on a few multiple–run innings, including the embarrassment of reliever Javier Lopez, who was switched around with Jonathan Van Every and placed in right field.  Michel Hernandez, who hit his first Major League home run during this game, proceeded to hit a ball right by Lopez for his first career double.  It was cruise control from that point in the Rays’ 13–0 victory.

The Friday night game was another epic battle that will not be forgotten anytime soon.  I attended the festivities in section 147, around left center field.  I had a most interesting view for the happenings of the fifth inning.

The Rays went down 2–0 entering that inning, then loaded the bases by way of hits, walks and even a sacrifice bunt by Dioner Navarro.  B.J. Upton hit a 3–2 pitch far enough for a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit in half.  Crawford walked to reload the bases, bringing up Evan Longoria with his golden opportunity.  He went down 0–2 to Justin Masterson, took two straight balls, then smashed one high, deep to left field…

GRAND SLAM!

I have almost never seen a live Rays crowd as jubilant as that one was.  I have certainly never seen a game turn around on one swing like that, as thousands of Red Sox fans were instantly silenced.  This could be a major turning point in this 2009 season.  Carlos Pena hit his 10th home run just two pitches later to extend it to a 6–2 lead.  From there the win was more automatic than I feared it would be as the bullpen shut it down effectively.

Now, some live game notes:

–There were indeed thousands of Red Sox fans in the building, and in the early innings they even sounded like a majority.  Rays fans worked hard to drown out several “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants.  The guys behind me were ragging on the Rays, talking about the “dump” we call a stadium and how the Rays were good one year and now have 5,000 fans.  First, do some research, and secondly, go the hell back to Boston if you hate us and our dome.  I let the Rays speak for me on the field to silence those guys.

–Around the top of the sixth inning (or seventh, I’m not sure), the Rays fans in my row to my right were confronted by a drunk, angry Red Sox fan who looked like a 16–year–old basement dweller.  Apparently, “Let’s Go Rays” was all he needed to pick a good fight.  He started egging them on, asking repeatedly what they just said to him and if they wanted to go.  The Rays fans basically said it was nothing to fight over.  This guy disagreed, and as security ran up the stairs, he threw a haymaker right into the face of a fan about four or five seats down from me.  He went from being escorted out of the stadium to being escorted to jail facing an assault charge.  The group made witness statements and will be pressing charges.

Now, this is not an indication of the attitudes of Red Sox fans, or those of any other team.  But this ignorant fan took his team love/hatred a bit too far.  It’s nothing like international soccer, but we Americans should be more civilized than picking random fights with opposing fans.  Every game would end in riot if we all did that.  I had to restrain myself from popping the guys behind me during the early innings.  But I knew the consequences of doing such a thing and how that would have made me look.  This guy, and other fans involved in at least two other fights, singled themselves out as the idiots of the bunch.  I personally hope they are banned for life from Tropicana Field — if not for fighting, then for serious stupidity.

For the record, a few Red Sox fans around us did chastise the one who picked the fight.  Again, it’s not all of them.

–As for the game, the crowd turned right around into a massive “Let’s Go Rays””chant after the fifth inning home runs.  A “Boston Sucks” chant also started near the end of the game.

–I’m not sure why only 27,045 people showed up.  Maybe it’s the economy?  I could barely afford the tickets that I had.

–A large contingent of University of Tampa fans were shown on the big screen during the game.  Amazingly, for a school with so many northeastern transplants and thus, Red Sox fans, it was a largely pro–Rays group in the Party Deck.  They even got on TV with Todd Kalas.  Cheers to my school for that recognition.

It’s right back to business tonight as Jeff Niemann looks for his, and the team’s, third straight win.  And I personally have final projects to complete for school.  I don’t know how much of the games I can watch, but I know they are on TBS tomorrow.  Until next time, go Rays.

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