Friday, March 7, 2014
BOSTON - What a week to be a sports fan in New England.
TUESDAY'S RED SOX GAME
WHO: Red Sox (Dempster 2-6) vs. Texas Rangers (Grimm 5-3)
WHEN: 7:10 p.m.
WHERE: Fenway Park
On Monday night the Bruins took the ice in Pittsburgh for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals knowing they had already accomplished their goal of taking at least one game on the road -- then racked up a 6-1 win to lead the series, 2-0.
On Tuesday night the first-place Red Sox will take the field at Fenway for a battle with Texas, another division leader.
As fans, we live for these moments. We watch the games waiting for pivotal events that reveal greatness. We saw a pair of them this weekend.
When the second period ended in Pittsburgh Saturday night, the Bruins were clinging to a one-goal lead over the Penguins. They were fortunate to be ahead in a game that saw the talented Penguins pepper Tuukka Rask through two periods.
As the teams left the ice, Pittsburgh suddenly had an unexpected lapse of character. Sidney Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and a player generally considered as one of the best on the planet, inexplicably bumped Rask with his stick. Rask responded with his usual cool, throwing up his hands in a "What are you doing?" gesture.
Within moments, Patrice Bergeron and Evgeni Malkin were on the ice throwing punches, and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was towering over Crosby.
Chara leaned down to look into Crosby's eyes as if scolding a child. Bergeron was bloodied but unbowed, and the game's momentum had shifted towards Boston.
The Penguins had pushed the B's too far. And, as NESN play-by-play man Jack Edwards likes to say, you "don't poke the bear."
Because the bear bites back. Buoyed by their response to Pittsburgh's silliness, the Bruins came roaring back in the third period and put the game away with a pair of goals.
After being outplayed for two periods, Boston suddenly looked like the better, more mature team.
On Sunday, the Red Sox were in New York to face the Yankees in the rubber game of a three-game series.
Leading 2-0, David Ortiz stepped up to the plate with the weather threatening. Hiroki Kuroda peered in and delivered his pitch. Big Papi crushed the 92-mph fastball for his 10th home run and a 3-0 Boston lead.
Eventually, Ortiz rounded the bases. But not before flipping his bat towards the Red Sox dugout and admiring his blast.
In baseball, this is generally unacceptable. You are not supposed to show the pitcher up by admiring or celebrating an individual accomplishment.
Perhaps Ortiz knew the rain was about to come pouring down so there would be no chance of retaliation. Perhaps he just didn't care.
Either way, his reaction to the home run was an exclamation point on the turnaround the Sox have made since last season.
The Yankees had been holding onto the division lead for much of the month, but the Sox rolled into the Bronx and took two of three from New York for the second time this season.
There are moments that turn a game or a series around. Think back to July 24, 2004 -- when Jason Varitek stuck his catcher's mitt into the face of Alex Rodriguez. It's simplifying to say that everything changed at that moment, but we know what happened later.
This is not to say Chara or Ortiz have guaranteed any sort of championship -- they simply gave us a pair of good moments.
And the hope that there will be many more.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.