Take your pick. Only in Boston would ...
... it feel more like March 1 than May 1, with temperatures reaching only into the upper 40s at game time with a howling, swirling wind denying a select few in vain power attempts between the Red Sox and Yankees.
... a backup catcher receive a police escort from Logan Airport to Fenway Park.
Either one works, but for the sheer anomalousness of the entire affair, let’s, for our purposes, go with Option B, shall we?
Just hours after he was officially, once again, a member of the Red Sox, traded back to Boston in exchange for Cla Meredith, Josh Bard, and a player to be named or cash down the road, Doug Mirabelli was already penciled into the starting lineup by manager Terry Francona. With Tim Wakefield on the hill to face the Yankees, it was imperative they get someone in there to catch the knucklah. And Josh Bard’s time had quite obviously run out.
So, Mirabelli got on a plane on the West Coast and flew due East. Francona hoped for him to arrive about an hour before game time. But when 6 p.m. rolled around, and no Mirabelli, the manager scratched him from the lineup and replaced him with Jason Varitek, who has had his own problems in the past with Wakefield’s signature delivery.
At 6:48 p.m., Mirabelli disembarked his flight at Logan Airport, where there was a police escort awaiting his arrival, along with his old familiar Red Sox uniform. Mirabelli changed in the car, on the way over, and 12 minutes after he walked off his flight, he walked into the Red Sox clubhouse, onto the field, and back into the lineup.
“That’s the most anxiety I have felt going into a game since I have been here,” manager Terry Francona said after Boston's 7-3 win. “It was to the point that we had 'Tek warm up Wake and we were close. I’m going to owe 'Tek something out of this.”
All that was missing was the shining armor and Wakefield getting all Zellweger on his long-lost compadre, shouting, “You complete me” for all of Fenway to hear.
“He rolls out with all his gear on and jumps right in,” Wakefield said. “It’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen in my life.”
We’re about to discover just how much the Red Sox, and Wakefield in particular, missed having Mirabelli around. But for one night, at least, the results were encouraging.
Wakefield received a no-decision, but pitched seven solid innings in the first meeting of the season between these two rivals, allowing three runs on just four hits and -- ta dum! -- zero passed balls.
“I don’t think that it was probably as easy as it looked,” Francona said. “To be on a flight all day there are a lot of extenuating circumstances. It’s a long day and that’s not an easy thing to do. ... It’s an art and he knows how to do it. He has a calming influence on the game.”
The record might not show it, but you could argue that Wakefield has bordered on dominant this season. Tonight’s game was the fourth time in six starts this season that he has allowed five hits or less. Following his ugly debut at Texas, when he allowed seven runs, Wakefield has allowed just 10 earned runs over 35 2/3 innings. Over that same span, he has been victimized by five more unearned runs, leading to just the one win back on April 9.
To solely blame Bard for that unfortunate record is ludicrous. Right, the passed balls didn’t help, of course, and when you have 10 of them to your record like Bard did, well that will stick out quite it bit, won’t it?
“The missed balls that he had over our last five starts were not the cause of us losing,” Wakefield said. “He carried a lot. I know how much work he put into it. I feel horrible for him. He gave it everything he had in the time he was here.
And yet, at the cost of surrendering a young pitcher like Meredith, it had some in Red Sox Nation wondering if Theo Epstein had been held down by gunpoint to make this trade by the charter members of the Dougie M. fan club. Today, Mirabelli is an important anchor for one-fifth of the Boston pitching staff once again. Beyond that, it remains to be seen.
Perhaps most concerning about Wakefield’s outings as of late are the number of runs his teammates have scored for him. Before tonight’s relative “explosion,” Wakefield was the beneficiary of two whole runs over his last three starts.
Wakefield entered tonight’s game downright nasty at Fenway this season, a 2.12 ERA to prove it. Not bad, eh? He was 0-2 in those games, however, illustrating the true incompetence of the Red Sox lineup, partly smarting from the continued absence of Coco Crisp, partly hurting from the fact that it employs both Alex Cora AND Alex Gonzalez.
For now, aspirations come in small packages. And tonight’s delivery of Mirabelli was unexpected and provided some immediate returns already for Wakefield. The Fenway Faithful greeted Mirabelli, who somewhat overshadowed that return of Johnny Damon, with a pair of standing ovations. And the fact that he had such a calming influence on Wakefield means it might very well be worth it all in the end.