Red Sox 9, Anaheim 3.
So why do I feel like I'm about to throw up?
|LIVE! FROM SUNNY ANAHEIM|
Sure, he could kick back with the big screen at the Sports Guy Mansion West, but that isn't enough for Bill Simmons.
So the Sports Guy will brave the treacherous highways of Southern California and make his way to Angel Stadium for Games 1 & 2 of the ALDS.
Check back with us throughout the week for his take on the Sox, the series and more.
Maybe it's the memory of Curt Schilling sprinting off the mound during an 8-2 game, pulling down a high chopper, awkwardly throwing the ball into right field, then pulling up lame as my buddy Hench screamed "He's grabbing his ankle, I think he hurt his ankle!!!"
Or maybe it was the car ride home, when we called a friend of ours at "Jimmy Kimmel Live," then listened to her say on speakerphone, "Yeah, it looked like Schilling was coming on the show tonight, but he couldn't do it because he had to go to the hospital to get X-rays on his ankle or something."
(Important note: If you're ever talking to a bunch of diehard Red Sox fans who are driving on a highway after a playoff game, and you're about to say the words "he had to go to the hospital to get X-rays on his ankle or something" about the only indispensable player on the team, just give them some kind of a warning first. Unless you want them to careen off the highway to their deaths like Thelma and Louise. Which almost happened. And yet I digress.)
When you're a Red Sox fan, even a blowout in the first game of a playoff series comes with a price. Nothing is easy. Ever. For instance, it was a perfect afternoon for baseball, sunny enough that our friend Daniel ended up spending something like 35 bucks on a two-ounce bottle of sunscreen. We were wearing Red Sox jerseys and T-shirts -- even standing up and high-fiving after big plays -- with no real repercussions other than a few flying peanuts. We even had killer seats, close enough to the Angels' on-deck circle that Troy Glaus could hear Hench screaming at him, "Thanks for killing our roto team, seriously, thanks for the 100-game vacation!!!"
We watched happily as the Sox took the crowd out of the game in the seven-run fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run error by Chone Figgins (who couldn't have looked more uncomfortable at third), followed by the inevitable Manny Ramirez three-run home run (which was so predictable, I even predicted it). I can't remember feeling so at ease during a playoff game. Giving Schilling a cushion like that is like stopping at a fancy car wash, the ones where you can sit in the lobby and read magazines while 15 guys who look like Alfredo Amezaga buff and polish your car. You're just in good hands. And we knew it.
There was one moment in the sixth when the Angels loaded the bases with two outs, so all the Halo fans started banging those pathetic Thunder Stix together like trained seals. If the goal of the Thunder Stix is to rattle everyone who isn't used to them, mission accomplished. It's like hearing 44,000 snooze alarms going off at the same time -- the kind of sound that would eventually cause an ex-con to snap, then spend the next six years driving one of those Buffalo Bill vans on an endless coast-to-coast killing spree.
But we had Schilling. He stepped behind the mound. Collected his thoughts. Took a deep breath -- almost like a guy standing outside his boss's door, thinking of the right way to ask for a raise. And he just stood still for a few seconds, soaking in the moment, those ridiculous Thunder Stix banging away in the background. Hench thought Schilling was "going to that special place," as he called it. I thought Schilling was just appreciating the moment, maybe even thinking to himself, "God, I'm glad I came to Boston." Maybe it was a little of both.
Regardless, what a scene. You really had to be there. It practically felt like a movie scene, like the climactic fight in "Karate Kid 2," when the Japanese are banging those goofy two-sided drumsticks and Miyagi tells Daniel-San, "This time not for points, for life!" We were only missing the Bill Conti music. Once Schilling gathered himself, he stepped back on the mound ... and immediately retired McPherson on a grounder to second. One pitch. That's all it took.
One other memorable Schilling moment: In the previous inning, he was battling Vlad Guerrero with Erstad on first and two outs. This wasn't vintage Schilling yesterday -- he never really got into a groove, although he usually goes into Jack Morris Mode with a big lead (just eating up innings and trying not to mess around). With Vladdy Daddy up, he couldn't mess around. For most of the game, he was throwing 93 and 94. The second strike to Vlad was 95. The third strike? 97. With some SERIOUS zip. Vlad swung right through it. End of the inning.
And that's the difference between Schilling and Pedro right now, as I wrote last week. Pedro doesn't have that fifth gear on this fastball anymore; he's stuck with the four-cylinder engine, opening himself up to bloop hits, seeing-eye singles, 10-pitch at-bats and everything else. Schilling has the extra gear. Throw in his impeccable control and his sense of The Moment, and I wouldn't trade him for any other pitcher in baseball if I had to win one game. No way. Not even Santana.
So you can imagine watching Schilling limp off the mound in the seventh, or hearing about his hospital visit later in the afternoon. Supposedly, he's fine.
Whether Boston fans will ever be able to fully enjoy a Red Sox playoff win without hyperventilating, vomiting, defecating, passing out or temporarily losing the ability to think or speak ... I guess that remains to be seen.
While we're here, some random awards from yesterday:
Best Pre-game Moment: When the Angels took the field before the first inning, I pointed out Schilling as he slowly strolled in from the bullpen, taking his sweet time to walk across the field. So Hench glanced out to Schilling, then inexplicably crouched forward and rocked back and forth a couple of times. He looked like a lunatic. It was like he fought off the pressure of playoff baseball all week, then it quietly snuck up and clubbed him across the head. Fantastic moment. You have to love playoff baseball.
Strangest Karma Moment: I wore my game-used Rob Woodward jersey from the '86 season, just to summon any residual Dave Henderson karma that may have been in the ballpark. Unfortunately, we were baking in the sun on the third base side, and the polyester jersey felt like a fire-retardant suit. So I took it off in the second inning, questioned out loud whether I was making the right choice karmically ... and then Troy Glaus ripped a double off Schilling. Now that's just weird.
(And yes, the jersey went right back on.)
Saddest Jersey: The Boston fan who was seen walking around with the "Garciaparra 5" jersey before the game. What kind of statement are you making there, other than "I'm too broke right now to buy something more current"?
Best Celebrity Sighting: Sadly, none. Unless you count Shannon Elisabeth's husband sitting right behind us. I mean, he WAS on "Punk'd."
Worst Pre-Game Omen That Never Came Into Play: The Brick (my editor) calling me on my cell right before the game, just to tell me, "Hey, we just had a malfunction with the publishing system -- all the Page 2 columns accidentally went onto ESPN Insider for about an hour, so just be prepared for some angry e-mails when you get home."
Least Protective Fans: Angels fans. Where else can you walk into an opposing stadium during a playoff game, start chants for the other teams and basically have the run of the place? We did everything but make out with their girlfriends yesterday. Actually, that's on the docket for Game 2.
Worst Traffic: The ride home to L.A. from Anaheim during rush hour? Two and a half hours. These are the things you don't see on "90210" and "The OC." Which reminds me ...
Most Misleading Show: "The OC." Let's just say that you weren't glancing around at these Angels fans and thinking, "Wait a second, is that Mischa Barton?"
This Season's TV Brainstorm That I'm Not Allowed to Properly Skewer Because I Write For A Website That's Owned By A TV Network: Fox's idea to have its radar-gun reading burst into flames with every pitch. Just kill me. Shoot me in the head. I can't take it anymore. We're reaching the point where I'm going to have to resign from ESPN and start my own website just so I can vent for 10,000 words about this stuff.
(But seriously, why would you want to distract your viewers on EVERY SINGLE PITCH? Were they just sitting around and saying, "Let's come up with something special this October, something that will make every baseball fan furious, something completely inexplicable ... what if the radar-gun reading kept bursting into flames on every pitch? Would that do the trick?")
Goofiest Concession Area: The Hooters mini-restaurant inside the stadium features a life-sized picture of two smoking-hot blondes in Hooters outfits, but three 70 year-old women working behind the counter. I can't emphasize this strongly enough: Unless there's a Hooters with overweight, hairy guys waiting tables in Hooters outfits, this has to be the worst Hooters EVER. Hands down. It's like the anti-Hooters. Of course, this didn't stop Daniel from hitting on the ladies behind the counter for a few seconds, just on pure "I'm in Hooters" instinct.
Weirdest Ad: You know those rotating ads on the balconies between the first and second decks in every stadium? Anaheim ran a hair restoration ad yesterday starring Rex Hudler, who announces Angels games for the local station here. I just can't imagine Jerry Remy doing this in Boston, under any circumstances, not even if they offered him a lifetime supply of cigarettes. California is a bizarre place. I'm telling you.
Funniest Moment: During the pre-game introductions, Bartolo Colon suddenly turning to David Eckstein and screaming "Get ... in ... my ... belly!!!!!"
Strangest Fact: If God offered a pitching line of "7 IP, 8H, 3ER, 3R, 2BB, 5K" before Pedro's Game 2 start, every Sox fan would grab those numbers in a heartbeat.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.