Prior to Game 1 of the ALCS, FOX showed a segment displaying the Boston Red Sox players and their grotesque caveman beards. The cult following in Boston has grown so silly, so out of control, that Red Sox fans wear mock beards around Fenway Park and the players carry nicknames for their facial hair. Dustin Pedroia calls his “The Sick Flow.” David Ortiz calls his “The Tease.”
Perfect. Because Boston fans must be “sick” to their stomachs after their hitters gave them “the tease” in the batter’s box against the Detroit Tigers in a 1-0 epic victory for the Bengals.
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez made the Red Sox slobber and drool on those nasty beards with 12 strikeouts through six no-hit innings, a theme that continued with four relievers who held Boston hitless into the ninth and frustrated a potent lineup to pure misery.
There was Ortiz, a so-called leader who ignited a game-long trend with a first-inning rant toward home-plate umpire Joe West. Soon, Mike Napoli whined. Then Shane Victorino. Then Jacoby Ellsbury. Even the schoolboy-looking Daniel Nava appeared to say, “You’re a meanie!”
Why all the rage? Well, maybe this was it for Nava: Curveball, sinker, slider, change-up, four-seam fastball, in five straight pitches, all from a guy who’s name rhymes with “Hannibal” – as in Lecter.
Yeah, that might turn the calm into crazy.
Or, “the sick,” because Anibal ate the Red Sox lineup with off-speed pitches (and maybe some Fava beans?) He left the game after 116 pitches and a spinning pirouette off the mound for the ages to escape trouble in the sixth inning with his 12th strikeout. The punch-out total grew to 17 with Al Alburquerque (two strikeouts), Jose Veras (two) and Joaquin Benoit (one).
17 strikeouts? In one night? Today, Sox fans might feel “sick” when facing these facts: Sanchez’s four strikeouts of Boston hitters in the first inning happened for the first time since 1908; the Red Sox were shutout at home in the postseason for the first time in 95 years, dating back to 1918 when the Curse of the Bambino wasn’t even born because Babe Ruth was a Red Sox outfielder AND pitcher; a 1-0 series deficit feels daunting as power-pitching studs Max Scherzer (Game 2) and Justin Verlander (Game 3) lie in the weeds with the rest of the Tigers, who are ready to pounce to the World Series for the second straight year.
Back to Sanchez, who looked more like the guy who fanned 17 Atlanta batters in April, rather than the starter shaking his head last Monday when Oakland homered thrice in Game 3 of the ALDS.
Five days later, in Game 1 of the ALCS, he had the opponents shaking their heads.
There was Ellsbury, a toss of the helmet in frustration. There was Victorino, who yelled at West from the on-deck circle. Even manager John Farrell decided to whine – this coming from a guy who bares a resemblance to Wilson from Home Improvement!
And it got better.
In the eighth inning, during Prince Fielder’s at-bat, the entire Fenway Park crowd gave third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez a Bronx cheer on a check-swing call – (whoops, is “Bronx” a swear word to Yankee-hating Boston fans?)
Hey, you know you’re desperate, and getting your tail whupped, when the fans resort to mocking a third-base umpire on a check-swing call.
Don’t worry, Boston fans, it will only get worse. The 2013 Cy Young winner (Scherzer) takes the mound today, then the 2011 AL MVP (Verlander) hurls before a rollicking Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon.
In the meantime, work on those beard nicknames. John Lackey calls his “The Sure Thing.”
What the heck is “the sure thing”? Here’s our guess: It’s a sure thing Boston hasn’t even faced the toughest pitching they’ll see in this series yet. That’s something to cry about.