The true second half of the season begins tonight, and the Red Sox, thanks to some struggles against the Mariners, are just off the 100-win pace. But they're in first place 81 games in, have an All-Star knuckleballer on pace for 20 wins, an MVP-candidate left fielder on pace for nearly 40 home runs and 140 RBI, and a future Hall of Famer going for his first win of the season tonight.
And that isn't even one of the top two stories of the evening.
No, with Jeff Bailey and Mike Lowell injured and Mark Kotsay wounded, the Sox have called up Aaron Bates for his Major League debut. The call for Nick Johnson grows stronger.
And headlining this night is the return of Nomar Garciaparra, playing in Boston for the first time since his departure became the heralded Big Move that pushed the Red Sox to their 2004 World Series victory. It was a rocky, tumultuous relationship between Nomar and Boston fans during his time here, particularly in the final year. We expect, however, that his reception will be one befitting the player who thrilled us night after night from 1997-2003: a long, loud standing ovation. And he will deserve it.
His career didn't turn out the way he — or we — would have liked, but for six years, he was the charismatic, flashy, hard-hitting shortstop we were proud to call our own. His on-field rivalry with Derek Jeter helped rejuvenate a stagnant rivalry (and, incidentally, led to the birth of this very blog). So say it with me for old time's sake — because it was assuredly true while he wore the red and white: