THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Strange day has us dazed

Manager Terry Francona takes Josh Beckett out in the sixth. Manager Terry Francona takes Josh Beckett out in the sixth. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 26, 2009
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It's not every day you get the world's fastest human, the world's oldest bat boy, and the world's greatest sports rivalry all in the same theater.

This is what we had at Fenway yesterday afternoon/last night and the mix produced a second consecutive Red Sox victory over New York and a second instance of the Sox and Yanks playing for 4 hours 21 minutes.

Gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt threw the ceremonial first pitch (to Jamaican-born Justin Masterson), and before the night was through, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wished Bolt were available in his bullpen. New York has allowed 38 runs in its last two Saturday games.

Ninety-nine-year-old Arthur Giddon served as ceremonial bat boy. His 100th birthday is today and there were moments when we all wondered if the Sox and Yanks might still be playing when Arthur hit the century mark.

The Sox won this one despite trailing A.J. Burnett, 6-0, after 3 1/2 innings. They won it because Jason Varitek hit a grand slam and Mike Lowell knocked in six runs and the Boston relievers were a lot better than the raging bullpen from New York.

In two games, the Sox and Yanks have used 24 pitchers who have given up 55 hits and 28 walks. There have been eight blown leads.

Some call it brutal. Some call it beautiful. Everyone calls it time-consuming.

"Long games," Sox manager Terry Francona said after looking at his watch at the start of his postgame news conference. "A lot of pitching changes. A lot of runs. A lot of commercials. This will certainly age you."

Just ask Mr. Giddon, who went the distance from a box seat by the Yankees dugout. He was on his feet with the rest of the 37,699 when Jonathan Papelbon retired Robinson Cano for the final out.

Nobody ever leaves these games. If you do, you might miss Jason Bay's two-run, two-out tying homer Friday night. Or you might miss a comeback from 6-0.

But it was tempting. When the Yankees blew out to that 6-0 lead against Josh Beckett (what's up with him?), a few of us were ready to bolt Fenway for the ever-annoying CBS Scene and some old-fashioned war room/on-the-clock NFL draft talk. But naturally that was only the beginning. The Red Sox came back. And back. And back. Folks from Fox must have been thrilled.

A 302-foot, two-run shot off the Pesky Pole by Cano gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead in the third. Cano struck again with a two-run double in the fourth and it was 6-zip when the Sox came out to face Burnett in the fourth. The air had been sucked out of Fenway. Friday night's game for the ages felt like part of the 1975 World Series.

Then we got some life in the ancient yard. Moments after Bay's bases-loaded single put the Sox on the board, Varitek hit a first-pitch grand slam (from the left side, thank you very much) and it was 6-5.

Varitek hadn't hit a grand slam in three seasons, but he clearly likes making things happen here on Saturday afternoons against the Yankees. You might remember the Rawlings facial he gave Alex Rodriguez in July of 2004. That was a special time, no?

When Jacoby Ellsbury homered to open the fifth, it was 6-6. Once again, this proved that you can throw out all the record books when a couple of former Florida Marlin Cy Youngs in waiting meet on the national stage. Beckett and Burnett each gave up eight earned runs in five full innings.

Turning things over to the bullpen was risky business after Friday night's 11-inning marathon.

A sacrifice fly by David Ortiz (who is still waiting for his first home run of the Obama Administration) gave the Sox a 9-8 lead after six. The Sox appeared to be out of a jam in the seventh, but a hard two-out grounder skipped between the legs of Dustin Pedroia for a two-run error to put the visitors back ahead, 10-9.

No problem. In the bottom of the inning, Lowell turned on a 1-2 pitch from the immortal Jonathan Albaladejo, and drove it into the first row of the Monster seats to make it 12-10. It was the third lead change in three innings and we hadn't even heard "Sweet Caroline" yet. The Sox never trailed again, piling on with a three-run double by Lowell in the eighth.

"It drains you," admitted Francona. "A lot of walks. Every pitch it seems like something might happen. It's a long day. Four and a half hours, a lot of things happen."

"It's not the first time we've had 4 1/2-hour games against these guys," said Varitek.

He's right, of course. Back in 2004, when men were men, the Sox played back-to-back playoff games of 5:02 and 5:49 against the Yankees. You might recall those - Games 4 and 5 of the greatest comeback in the history of sports.

"It could be a 2-1 game," said Varitek. "With us, it would still be four hours."

Hard to believe they've got 16 more of these between now and October.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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