The Angels were facing knuckleballer Steven Wright for the first time, but were quick to kick things off as Erick Aybar singled, Albert Pujols doubled and then de facto cleanup hitter Kole Calhoun had a two-bag banger off the green monster that drove Aybar and Pujols home. C.J. Wilson also got off to a great start, immediately trying to put his "throw strikes" mantra into practice, but slipped up in the second when he began to nibble around Mike Napoli, ultimately giving up an express package straight into the left field bleachers. Then in the third, C.J. got into momentary trouble again when he gave up a rocket RBI single by Mookie Betts that took one hard bounce in shallow left and hit Matt Joyce right in the bread basket. Wilson could have fared much worse in the third, as he would go on to load up the bases, only to be gifted a textbook double play the struggling David Ortiz. A collective sigh of relief was had by the Halos hopeful.
The bad news for the Angels was how well Steven Wright settled down after the first, fooling a few of the Halos along the way, and holding them to the rare baserunner. C.J Wilson was able to get through six innings but his last side was so frightening that I watched most of it through my fingers. Once again, C.J. was in a mood to nibble around the plate, quickly eschewing his efficiency in the first couple innings and falling back into "throw whatever" mentality. And, once again, the main beneficiary of this gaffe was his best friend in the world Mike Napoli. With a man on, Mike Napoli hit one over the monster and into a pahked cah.
The seventh saw Mike Morin pitch, then get injured, then get replaced by Vinnie Pestano who got into a bases loaded jam. Mike Scioscia picked up the bullpen phone, this time calling Fernando Salas. Salas managed to get out of the inning, but not before giving up a two-run single to Xander Bogaerts, making the score 6-2 heading into the eighth.
The Angels attempted to mount a rally in the eighth against Red Sox relieve Junichi Tazawa, with Erick Aybar hitting a left-center gap double, then getting knocked home by a Mike Trout single. The inning may have started with a pop but it ended with a fiz, with Kole Calhoun frozen in his tracks by a low and away fastball. There was a light at the end of the tunnel there for a second, but it ended up just being an apparition; a trick played on our minds, by our hearts, and the inevitability of a Fenway letdown begun to sink in. A further eroding of the bullpen acumen in the bottom of the inning would serve to only push the knife in further...the score creeping up to 7-3 and bitterness for the entire state of Massachusetts materializing in the form of angry words said under our breath...then 8-3 and we’re in full tunnel vision mode until a family member disrupts the signal, turns the channel.
For the superstitious, this game sounded a few alarms. Are we still being cursed by Napoli, for what Tony Reagins had done? Is Mike Napoli a divine agent of retribution, who now only exists to make us pay a penance that we only owed due to guilty association? Or perhaps he’s just a ball player who gets up to face his old team, and who was facing a pitcher that could dish out the burns, but was begging for comeuppance. Maybe Mike Napoli just loves trolling all of us. I’m not saying the organization, or C.J. Wilson, never deserved this. But c’mon, Mike...it’s just not funny anymore.