That wasn't a baseball game the Red Sox and Indians played at old Fenway on Tuesday night. That was a novel, played out over three hours and 36 minutes until Boston's Christian Vazquez hit a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to turn what was about to be a 10-9 loss for his team into a 12-10 victory over the Cleveland Indians. It may not be the game of the year by the end of the baseball year. But it will sure do for now. If you watched it, you know. You wait through a lot of endless games to get one like this, one you don't want to end.
"We talk a lot about length of games and pace of play," Bob Costas, who worked the game for the MLB Network, said Wednesday morning. "But when there is as much action as we had last night -- and how could you possibly have more action than we did last night? -- no one cares how long it takes. And by the way? There will probably be some 3-2 games this season that take longer than the 12-10 game we got last night."
"The next time anybody tries to predict what's going to happen in baseball," said Jim Kaat, who worked the game with Costas, "they should remember what we all saw last night."
Here is just some of what we saw on Tuesday night at Fenway, in what Xander Bogaerts would describe as a "PlayStation game" afterward:
• Austin Jackson, the Indians center fielder, flat-out made the catch of the year before he laid out in the Red Sox bullpen, one of the truly great catches in the history of the ballpark. Or any ballpark. Jackson somehow managed to chase down the ball Hanley Ramirez had hit, timed his jump perfectly, made his jump as if he'd just taken a lob pass from another Cleveland guy named LeBron, caught the ball, disappeared over the bullpen fence, managed to hang on. The catch was so thrilling it made the one Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. had made against Aaron Judge in pretty much the same spot a couple of weeks ago look as routine as a Willie Mays basket catch. And it got Jackson a standing ovation -- from Red Sox fans.
Jackson did everything except spike the ball when he got to his feet. No need. He had already spiked himself.
"When I jumped and caught it, I realized I was about to take a tumble to the other side," Jackson said after the game. "Luckily, I was able to grab the fence a little bit and I flipped over."
In the process, he flew and flipped his way into every highlight reel that records catches like this in baseball. For all times. Because it was a play for all times.
• Chris Sale, Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel and Cody Allen all got roughed up in the same baseball game. We live in a world of analytics. Try to process the odds on that all happening to them on the same night.
Sale gave up five runs in the first two innings after having given up five runs in his past six starts. So the Red Sox fell behind 5-0. But by the bottom of the second, Carrasco had given it all back, fast, and was gone after 1 2/3 innings, the fastest hook in his career in a game he didn't leave because of injury.
Then Terry Francona went to Andrew Miller, one of the best and most important relief pitchers on the planet, in the bottom of the sixth after the Indians had gone back ahead 7-5. But by the time that inning ended, the Red Sox were ahead 9-7, partly because one of their new guys, Eduardo Nunez, had hit one off the Green Monster and nearly over it with the bases loaded.
In the ninth, the star closers for both teams had a chance to close for their teams. And sure could not. First it was Kimbrel, who has had a spectacular swing-miss season, giving up a leadoff home run to Francisco Lindor in the top of the inning, giving up another run to the Indians after that, leaving with his team behind 10-9.
It was now Allen's turn. Except. Except that with two outs for Allen and Rafael Devers on first and a 2-2 count on Mitch Moreland, Allen threw a wild pitch.
"At which point," Kaat said, "[home plate umpire Marty] Foster says, 'No no no.'"
Meaning that in Foster's view, the pitch was a ball. Yan Gomes, the Cleveland catcher, hears no and leisurely starts after the ball. Moreland? He isn't going anywhere at first, certainly not to first, because he initially thinks he's checked his swing in time and the count has gone full. But in the next moment, third base umpire Mark Wegner also says no: No, Moreland has not checked his swing. No the count hasn't gone full. So Wegner rings up Moreland. Now Moreland runs to first. But it's too late for Gomes to do anything about it.
"The game was over," Bob Costas said, "and then it wasn't."
"Sometimes," Jim Kaat said, "little things quickly turn out to be big things. Whitey [Herzog] always used to tell us run hard until the play is over and play hard until the game is over."
Just for good measure, Allen threw another wild pitch with Christian Vazquez at the plate, advancing Moreland to second and Devers to third, so now both the potential tying run and winning run were in scoring position.
• Then the last moment of this wonderful night of baseball belonged to Vazquez. He went deep on a 3-1 count, partly because Mookie Betts was on deck and Allen didn't want to load the bases for Betts, a clutch hitter of some note, in Boston and everywhere else. Vazquez, by the way, shouldn't have even been playing, because Sandy Leon happens to be the Boston catcher whose job it is to catch Chris Sale.
But there Vazquez was with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. There was the fastball Allen threw him, down the middle and at the knees. Bradley Zimmer was in center by then for the Indians, Francona having moved Austin Jackson to right. They both watched Vazquez's ball disappear to deep center and deep into the Boston night, Jackson realizing in that moment that there are some home runs at Fenway that even he can't prevent.
"A game on August first that was played and managed like it was October first," Costas said the morning after.
It was all that, with 28 hits and 22 runs and seven Cleveland pitchers combining for a total of just seven strikeouts, and strategy, and plays at the plate, and Francona, in the middle of it, saying that he was going to do everything he had to do to win the game, as if he really were managing in October. Francona did everything he could. Had his closer in there at the end. Closer did what he's done plenty of times to get the last out: got strike three.
But then the catcher couldn't find strike three. Mitch Moreland eventually found his way to first base. After all the moments, the last one belonged to Christian Vazquez. Last chapter of a great and unexpected baseball novel. Austin Jackson caught Ramirez's ball. Nobody was catching Vazquez's. The end.