BOSTON — Before Game 1 of the World Series, as rush-hour traffic headed down the Mass Pike, there was a double rainbow over Fenway Park for commuters to enjoy. Before Game 2, there was simply a normal gorgeous rainbow.
What joyous overkill — as though Boston, or its sports fans, needed rainbows to wish upon these days when it comes to the city’s sports.
On Wednesday night, the Red Sox took command of the World Series, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven affair by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2, behind six strong innings from David Price, a pitcher who has been a poster boy for October sadness for years.
The 6-foot-5 left-hander, who has won a Cy Young Award but whose postseason record reached its nadir at 0-9, has now provided two vital playoff wins this month. Now, he has joined the rest of Boston sports culture in throwing off the depression and negativity of the past so he can explore the joy of winning.
“This is the biggest stage, unless it is Game 7 of the World Series,” said Price after allowing only two runs on three hits. “I’m pumped for myself, my team and my teammates.”
Such is the new normal for this region — a state of delighted excitement that had been absent for generations. New England’s slightest subliminal inclination has been fate’s command for the past 15 years. Whether the team is the New England Patriots or the Red Sox, the Celtics or the Bruins, these fans have lived neck-deep in the pot of gold, and glory, at the end of every sports rainbow.
The Red Sox, long the kings of American sports tragedy, are trying to be Boston’s 10th champion in a major pro sport since 2004. After a 4-2 victory Wednesday in Game 2 of this World Series, Boston is at it again, and, much as Red Sox fans love to cheer in Fenway Park, you may find it hard to find many who think that this series will return to the Back Bay.
More likely, Boston has another one of those big Duck Boat parades, everybody gets mighty happy all winter, and, ho-hum, the Hub wins it all again.
“We had him on the ropes. We stressed him,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said of Price. “They got the big hit when they needed to. We didn’t.”
Then, asked if he planned an unorthodox lineup changes when this series goes to Los Angeles, Roberts may have betrayed a sense of fatalism about facing a Boston team that has already accomplished so much with 108 wins and playoff dismissals of the 100-win New York Yankees and the 103-win defending champion Houston Astros. “They got us here,” Roberts said of his big 238-home-run boppers who were held to three hits in Game 2. “We’re gonna ride ‘em out.”
Since 2004, riding ‘em out against Boston sports teams has often meant riding over a cliff. The Patriots have four Super Bowl rings (and three losses), the Red Sox have three diamond-encrusted baubles and the Celtics and Bruins have one title apiece. It’s like a long-neglected New England social program: No fan left behind.
“We’re spoiled,” said a friend, Lee Russem, a New Englander all his life. So, what does “spoiled” feel like, I asked, since most of us can’t imagine it. Maybe you get a ticket, Lee said, but, more likely, you don’t. So as a lovely consolation prize, you pick which sports bar or watch party you’ll join, which family members will come and how many hours of fun you think can endure. Then he listed his favorite places to watch a Boston team win it all. It seemed like a long list.
“It should be fun,” he said. Again.
These days every foreshadowing seems to tend Boston’s way. Before Game 2, the Red Sox introduced many members of their 2004 World Series champs, including Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz from the legendary team that “Reversed the Curse.” Even Roberts was symbolically sucked into the celebration of his enemies. If there is a moment when the trajectory of Boston sports history flipped, it was Roberts’s stolen base off Mariano Rivera when the New York Yankees were three outs away from sweeping Boston in the 2004 ALCS.
Roberts scored, the Red Sox escaped and the 2004 Yankees claimed the title as baseball’s biggest chokers. So, as Roberts ran out toward the mound to hug old teammates like Jason Varitek, it felt like the arc of baseball fortune still tilted toward the Red Sox, denied for 86 years, rather than the sun-kissed Dodgers, who are coming up on 30 years without a title.
Now, the spooky stuff happens to the other guys. Like poor Ryan Madson, the reliever who’s been stellar in many previous postseasons, been a bullpen stalwart on two World Series winners, but has failed dismally in both these two games. Twice, Roberts has called for him in the fifth inning. Twice, disaster.
In Game 1, Madson inherited two runners from Clayton Kershaw with no outs. Both scored. Kershaw took the loss.
In Game 2, Madson arrived again in the fifth inning, inheriting three runners from Hyun-jin Ryu with two outs. Please, get one out. Instead, all three scored. Ryu took the loss. Madson left the mound shaking his head. His Series ERA is 0.00. Yet he’s made a loser of two starting pitchers.
“Madson’s been our guy for quite some time now [in that spot],” said Roberts. “He’s done the job time and time again. The last couple of nights it hasn’t worked.”
In a scene that, for many decades, would have been a “Red Sox moment,” Madson gave a generous pregame interview before Game 2 in which he analyzed all his problems in Game 1. Five hours later, he’d essentially spoken his own World Series obituary. Maybe that long interview session made him think too much. As those around the Nats know, Madson dissects everything. He could analyze a dollar bill until it gave up and made change for itself.
Thinking back on Tuesday night may have help Madson booby-trap himself for Wednesday. He theorized that the Boston cold made it hard for him to get loose, especially his knees. The cold also prevented pitchers from getting the proper (legal) “resin-and-sunscreen” stickiness on their fingers to throw curveballs. The damp left the Fenway mound sticky so that clay clung to his cleats. “It was a difficult track,” said Madson.
Getting the picture yet? It’s amazing how many things happen in a player’s head, even one with extensive postseason success like Madson. Madson even analyzed how he felt when striking out Martinez, in Game 1 — the very same man that he was most likely to face in a crisis in Game 2.
“You know you’re in a pit with a rattlesnake,” said Madson, “and one bad move, and you’ll get bit.”
Sure enough, within hours, he found himself back in that same pit facing the same viper.
For generations, it was the Red Sox who analyzed their failures, then repeated them. Now, there are rainbows over Boston and both the Red Sox and their fans seem to get their fondest wishes. Now, it is Boston fans admit they are spoiled, yet enjoy the wins just as much. They sing “Sweet Caroline” at the top of their lungs before the bottom of the eighth inning and assume that their voices will invoke the forces needed for another big win. And it happens.
Things can change. Baseball allows it. But for now, this World Series lives in a Boston world. The Red Sox breath deep and enjoy. Nobody else gets out alive.
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.
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