BALTIMORE - The Red Sox' 2-0 win over the Orioles on Monday night brought a dominant effort by the bullpen. Steven Wright's knuckleball cemented his spot in the Sox rotation for the time being. Mookie Betts returned - Hallelujah - and the Sox had just enough grease to elbow their way past the most miserable Birds.
Chances are, a month or two from now, you will remember none of that. Why would you?
If baseball's base purpose remains escapism and a reflection of ourselves, seeing the leader of the Red Sox react just like an eighth-grader in a situation usually reserved for austerity may still bring a grin.
Months from now, then, what you may recall from Monday night is Alex Cora laughing at Eduardo Nunez at home plate after Nunez got hit by a pitch in the stomach. And you will appreciate the Red Sox a little more for it.
When your boy gets hurt and you don't wanna laugh too hard at his expense. pic.twitter.com/OuLhI6aZBO
— Dan O'Mara (@Dan_OMara) June 12, 2018
The manager wasn't trying to be mean. He, in fact, was not mean at all. Cora was the tired kid in the back of the classroom before last period who just couldn't help himself.
When Nunez got hit near the ribs, it loaded the bases for the Sox in a still scoreless game. Head trainer Brad Pearson was crouching next to Nunez, hand on Nunez's shoulder. Nunez was still on the ground but communicative, and Cora was standing next to him, bending forward at the waist and losing it.
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"He was going, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God,'" Cora said of Nunez, "‘I'm not gonna die, I'm not gonna die.' I felt so bad, I just - I couldn't stop."
Cora was laughing as he retold it, too.
"It was funny," Cora continued. "Whatever. At least he made me laugh in the 12th inning of a close game."
He made everyone laugh. If you see it today, you'll laugh. At least, you'll chuckle, because it was such an oddity and eminently relatable.
This was an otherwise intense moment in the baseball game. Brilliant Buck Showalter was across the way. A division title could be decided by one game - and yeah, all of that is true. It's always true. But what you wind up remembering from individual games in the course of 162 often is not a specific play. It's often nothing at all to do with the field. It might be the flashlights on phones while Matt Barnes pitches. Or a bullpen cop. You know how it goes.
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Pedro Martinez had already moved on to the Mets when the sprinklers came on while he was pitching. Instead of dashing off the field to avoid getting wet, he went through them first, a childlike instinct to simply enjoy the moment taking over. The score doesn't resonate years later. The amusement conveyed in an unexpected moment does.