The Red Sox are on the west coast to play two Interleague series against the Giants and Dodgers, which means a lot of late nights and, realistically, a lot of late nights where I watch the middle innings in bed and fall asleep before the game’s over.
It’s not as if this isn’t common practice at least a couple of weeks per season, but baseball is one of the few games where that kind of passive exposure still feels beneficial and fulfilling. On the same note, there are plenty of those ESPN Wednesday doubleheaders where I’ll tune in and just sort of half-watch the early innings before I pass out. I’ve been doing this since I was 10. I get how time zones work.
So it’s in those games that, while important, I try to suck up as many little bits of information or pageantry as possible. These are Interleague games, so one of my favorite aspects of the game are already built in: there’s no designated hitter, so pitchers have to hit and David Ortiz has to play first base. Both of these things delight me to no end. Pitchers hitting add an element of chaos to the game (what happens if they actually get a hit or walk?), and I’ve always enjoyed watching the big guy play first base. He’s more agile and effective than he gets credit for, considering so many consider him the defensive equivalent of a backstop with a glove tied to a pole.
So, it’s late. It’s probably a little past 11:30 Eastern time, Pablo Sandoval is up in the fifth inning against an incredibly efficient Jon Lester, and I’m already in bed with the sleep timer set on the TV.
Panda hits a high chopper that kind of hangs in the air much longer than anyone’s used to, almost like a low pop-up. Dustin Pedroia sets and waits, grabs it, immediately flips to Stephen Drew at shortstop, who touches the base, whips his arm up and over the incoming Hunter Pence, and fires off a rope to Ortiz, who stretches for the out at first.
As double plays go, it was probably only slightly better than average, I guess. I’ve seen crazier ones this year that involve glove flips, dives and first basemen leaping and coming down with a tag on a runner. Lots of ridiculous things happen when a baseball is being volleyed at high speeds by athletes around a diamond.
But this double play seemed so flawless that it grabbed me. I was much less tired than I had been just a minute before, and I got more impressed with each replay they showed. Then, early this morning, I sought out the highlight online to confirm what I’d seen live the night before.
It’s the way Pedroia knows exactly what he wants to do when the ball comes down. It’s the way Drew so confidently and effortlessly tags the base and whips the ball over to first base. And it’s the way that Ortiz, making only his second start of the year in the field, still had the muscle memory to make the stretch and reel in the final out.
There were bigger stories coming into and out of last night’s game. Lester was fantastic into the ninth inning as the Red Sox shut out the Giants 4-0. Xander Bogaerts was called up from Pawtucket but didn’t get into last night’s game. Tim Lincecum’s up-and-down season continued. And so on.
But it’s the little things, like the well-timed double play, that can become the most memorable part of a game. And it’s those things that keep me tuning into late-night games where I know that, more often than not, I’ll be asleep when a decision comes.