The apocalypse has taken over Fenway Park. With the cutting 45 degree elements shedding a weird glow to this summer sport, fans sipped hot chocolate and pressed their ears to transistor radios straining to hear the outcome of the ever-more-important ball games in New York. New York went on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 behind Ron Guidry's 24th win, and not surprisingly, the tight defensive play of the Red Sox didn't cheer anyone up. They are still second best. And there are three games left in the season.
Erstwhile Yankee Mike Torrez, who has lost eight of his last nine starts, held on for nine innings to dump the Detroit Tigers by a score of 1-0, in a true September nerveeater of a game.
Despite allowing seven walks, Torrez threw only 126 pitches for his three-hit victory. It was his 16th win against 12 losses, and the 15th time Torrez pitched a full nine-inning game. This was his best game in recent memory, an intense performance of the last kind.
Detroit starter Kip Young also threw a tough game--a three-hitter, in fact--but there was one difference, and that was Jim Rice.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth inning, Rice slammed a Young pitch over 400 feet away into the quaalude-infested Fenway bleachers, warming hopes and faith for a brief moment in the evening.
The Red Sox, unlike their fans, were solemnly bearing down on their own act. Fred Lynn rifled a flat throw to home plate, giving catcher Carlton Fisk a full three seconds to wait for Jason Thompson's slide. Thompson's challenge was the Tigers' only bona fide scoring bid, and Lynn's throw kept the scoreboard clear for Rice's winning homer in the next half of the inning.
There were no infield errors, no dropped fly balls, no Punch-and-Judy pitchers. There was nothing wrong with the Red Sox last night. But everywhere you looked, fans were drinking beer despondently, saying nasty things about various players' mothers, and mumbling, "If the Yankees win one more..."
Red Sox manager Don Zimmer leaned back in his office after the game and said, "I hate to say the same thing every night, but it's all I can do. We gotta win and pray."
Captain Carl Yastrzemski sat glumly outside the shower room, talking privately to some friends, grinding his teeth over belting two Kip Young fastballs three feet short of the bullpen out in center field. "I don't know what to do," he said.
Several key players hid from the press in the trainer's room, and Jim Rice sat under silence and fatigue as one of the Sox trainers administered a well-deserved massage. Nobody really wanted to hang around.
Don Zimmer reflected over this memorable 1978 season, "I wouldn't do anything differently. What can you do if you win 97, 98, 99 games and still don't win?